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Stepping into 2,000 years of history.
The story of St Bride's is woven into the fabric of the City of London.
The dawn of our history: a Roman house near Lud Gate.
Brigid: saintly teenager & default bishop
Photo Credit: Peter Dazeley
An accident of medieval geography brings importance
Photo Credit: Paul Freeman
Wynkyn de Worde came to St Bride's and it was time to start the presses
Plague pits, nosegays, brokers of the dead & a torrent of flame.
'Will you rebuild our church, Mr Wren?'
The rise and rise of the Fourth Estate
The night St Bride's luck ran out
Wynkyn de Worde's revolution ends in tears
St Bride's: a church for the 21st century
In 1671 the churchwardens of St Bride's took Mr Christopher Wren (Surveyor General and Principal Architect for rebuilding the City) to dinner at the Globe Tavern. It would take another year before they could convince him of their cause, but their persistence meant that St Bride's was one of the first post-fire churches to be opened.
The blaze had destroyed 87 City churches. Despite Wren's belief that only 39 were necessary in such a small area, St Bride's was among the 51 to be rebuilt. The £500 required as a deposit by Guildhall to get things under way was raised in a month - a remarkable effort, given that most of the parishioners had lost homes and businesses in the disaster. Nor was this the end to the financial demands, as money remained tight. But a combination of Coal Dues, donations and loans eventually met the building's cost of £11,430 5s. 11d.
Joshua Marshall was the main contractor for the works. A parishioner and master mason to the king, like his father before him, Marshall was a wise choice. He also worked with Wren on Temple Bar and the Monument, while one of his assistants was the young Nicholas Hawksmoor, who was to become a renowned architect himself.
As today, the main material for the church was Portland stone. By September 1672, within a year of starting, the walls had reached the upper part of the cornice. The speed of progress was partly ascribed to the fact that the workmen had a hostel by the church, the Old Bell Tavern, built for them by Wren. By 1674 the main structural work was complete, and a year later the church finally reopened for worship on Sunday 19th December 1675.
Though it was open, it was not completed; most notably, the tower remained unfinished. In 1682 the churchwardens again approached Wren, this time about building the steeple. Work did not begin until 1701, and took two years to complete. At 234ft it was Wren's highest steeple, although after it was damaged by lightning in 1764 it was reduced to 226ft during more rebuilding.
Much has been written about the steeple, the most romantic tale of which is surely that of William Rich, apprenticed to a baker near Ludgate Circus. He fell in love with his master's daughter and, when he set up his own business at the end of his apprenticeship, won her father's approval for her hand in marriage.
Rich wished to create a spectacular cake for the wedding feast, but was unsure how, until one day he looked up at the steeple of the church in which the marriage was to be held, and inspiration hit him: a cake in layers, tiered, and diminishing as it rose. Thus began the tradition of the tiered wedding cake.