In 1666 the Great Fire of London ripped through the City destroying three quarters of the buildings including 87 churches. Of these, 34 were never rebuilt and one wonders what the criteria were for deciding which would be remade by Sir Christopher Wren and which would not.
Size must certainly been one of these criteria. Smaller parishes were absorbed by larger neighbours. Take for example the two neighbouring parishes of St Nicholas Olave and Holy Trinity the Less. Both of these were were roughly square, measuring a mere 100 meters on each side. Incredibly, St. Nicholas Olave was itself the result of an earlier amalgamation of two parishes: St Nicholas and St Olave Bradestrat. After the Great Fire , St Nicholas Olave was merged with the next door parish dedicated to the same saint: St Nicholas Cole Abbey. Holy Trinity the Less was combined with St Michael Queenhythe which was later also demolished in 1876 and folded into St James Garlickhythe.
Plaque to St Leonard Eastcheap
Is it possible that another criteria for survival may have been the names? Before the fire there were 14 churches dedicated to a St Mary (either the Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene) and 7 of these still survive today in some form. Of the four churches dedicated to St Botolph in the 13th Century, three of them still exist in the 21st Century.
So which saint’s names were unlucky enough not to have survived at all? This walk is dedicated to two of them – St Leonard and St John. I should point out here that the three churches dedicated to St John are two different Johns; St John the Baptist who heralded Jesus’s arrival and St John the Evangelist who wrote one of the gospels. St John Zachary is another name for St John the Baptist.
This is a short walk only 2 km starting at Monument and ending in Smithfield Market. Starting at the monument to the Great Fire is quite apt, since that was the fire that destroyed all the churches on this walk. You can climb the steps inside the tall column of the Monument to get great views of the City from the top. Well with doing if you are looking for an extra bit of exercise. Then, with your back to the monument walk up the hill to find the blue plaque dedicated to St Leonard Eastcheap.
Plaque to St Mary Bothaw
and St Swithin London Stone
Then walk down Cannon Street towards Cannon St Station. See if you can spot the parish boundary markers to the lost churches of St Mary Bothaw and St Swithin London Stone at the entrance. You will also see the famous London Stone set into the wall of a building. This stone has much mystical significance and there are many theories about its origin and powers, the most likely of which is that it was a Roman milestone marking the entrance to the Governor’s palace and the point from which all road distances were measured in Roman times.
St John the Baptist
Just past Cannon St station duck down to the left and walk up Cloak St. Halfway up on the right you should see a memorial to St John the Baptist.
The memorial reads ” Sacred to the memory of the DEAD interred in the ancient church and churchyard of St John the Baptist upon Walbrook during four centuries” . When the District Line tube was being built through the site of the old churchyard the human remains they excavated were put in a vault beneath this monument.
St Thomas the Apostle
Continuing up into Great St Thomas Street you will see a memorial to St Thomas the Apostle. Another church lost in the Great Fire and not rebuilt. Then walk up Garlick Hill, past Mansion House tube station and down the street towards St Pauls.
Turn right up New Change and look up above Boots to see the small boundary marker for John the Evangelist. It is quite hard to spot but the picture below will give you a big hint…
St John the Evangelist
When you get to Cheapside go up Foster Lane past the church of St Vedast to find the blue plaque of St Leonard Foster Lane high up above and just past the Haz Turkish restaurant.
St Leonard Foster Lane
Continue up Foster Lane to find the memorial garden on the site of St John Zachary. This was used as a movie location in David Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
St John Zachary
That’s the end of the ecclesiastical part of the walk. But if you go up Noble street you will see the remains of the old Roman wall and the Fort or “Barbican” next to the Museum of London (this is relocating to Smithfield market) which will give you some feel for the old walled city. Then it just a short walk up to Smithfield market and all the great restaurants in the area that relied on this historic meat market for produce. If you are looking for a good place to eat, I would recommend the modern British restaurant St John. That’s not just because it’s in St John street and so fits with the theme of the walk. Nor is it because my name is John. Try it because its one of the best in the area…