St Bride's: History

Chapter I: Intro

Stepping into 2,000 years of history. The story of St Bride's is woven into the fabric of the City of London.
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Chapter II: AD43 - 1000

The dawn of our history: a Roman house near Lud Gate. Brigid: saintly teenager & default bishop
Photo Credit: Peter Dazeley
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Chapter III: 1000 - 1500

An accident of medieval geography brings importance
Photo Credit: Paul Freeman
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Chapter IV: 1500 - 1665

Wynkyn de Worde came to St Bride's and it was time to start the presses
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Chapter V: 1665 - 1666

Plague pits, nosegays, brokers of the dead & a torrent of flame.
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Chapter VI: 1666 - 1730

'Will you rebuild our church, Mr Wren?'
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Chapter VII: 1730 - 1940

The rise and rise of the Fourth Estate
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Chapter VIII: 1940 - 1957

The night St Bride's luck ran out
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Chapter IX: 1957 - 1989

Wynkyn de Worde's revolution ends in tears
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Chapter X: 1989 - 2017

St Bride's: a church for the 21st century
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Chapter IX: 1957 - 1989

Queen returns to celebrate 50th anniversary of rededication of St Bride's

HM The Queen returns to celebrate in 2007 the 50th anniversary of rededication of St Bride's

On 19th December 1957, on the anniversary of Wren's church being opened for worship 282 years previously, St Bride's was rededicated in the presence of the Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

In 1962, Dewi Morgan inherited the Rector's mantle from Cyril Armitage, and throughout the 1960s and 1970s St Bride's continued its ministry to the newspaper world, hosting baptisms, weddings and memorial services as well as offering regular weekday worship for those working in the area.

In 1967 the church was packed for a service to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Press Association, whose offices were next door. The glass doors at the West End were a gift to mark the occasion. Through the generosity of Sir Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook's heir, a permanent exhibition was mounted in the crypt chronicling the history of the site and of Fleet Street, and was renewed with the help of Reuters and the Museum of London 25 years later.

By the early 1980s, however, all was not well in the newspaper business. For years Fleet Street had been living with chaotic industrial relations. Proprietors found the so-called Spanish practices of the print unions intolerable, while the workers rejected management attempts to introduce flexible working, no-strike clauses, new technology, and an end to the closed shop.

National newspapers continued to be produced by the labour-intensive linotype hot-metal method, rather than being composed electronically. Eddie Shah's regional Messenger Group had, however, benefited from the Conservative government's trade union legislation which allowed employers to de-recognise unions, enabling Shah to use an alternative workforce and new technology. Journalists could input copy directly, sweeping away arcane craft-union manning levels and cutting costs dramatically.

On 24th January 1986, some 6,000 newspaper workers went on strike after the breakdown of negotiations with Rupert Murdoch's News International, parent of Times Newspapers and News Group Newspapers. They were unaware that Murdoch had built and clandestinely equipped a new-technology printing plant in Wapping. When they struck, he moved his operation overnight.

Within months the printing dinosaur that was Fleet Street was dead. By 1989 all the national newspapers had decamped as other proprietors followed Murdoch's lead. Computers had consigned Wynkyn de Worde's revolution to history.

Many people at that time feared that the diaspora of the Fourth Estate might result in St Bride's losing its title of the cathedral of Fleet Street. Some even considered that the great church would lose its parishioners. Might Rupert Murdoch's vision bring about what pestilence, fire and the Luftwaffe had failed to achieve?