St Mary Staining

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At the corner of Oat Lane and Staining Lane in the north west part of the City of London you will find a small handkerchief of a park surrounded by tall modern office blocks. This is the site of the lost church of St Mary Staining. It is first mentioned in the written record 1189 and we can clearly see it, with a crenelated tower, on the Agas map of 1560 shown below.

The churchyard of St Mary Staining
St Mary Staining on the Agas map of 1560

John Stow in his survey of London in 1598 has this to say :

“Then is the small parish church St. Mary, called Stayning, because it standeth at the north end of Stayning Lane. In the which church, being newly built, there remains no monument worth noting.”

When he says it was ‘newly built’, he may have meant ‘ newly rebuilt’ since we know it existed 400 years before his survey. John Stow believed the name ‘staining’ arose from the painter-stainers who lived in the lane. In Pevsner’s guide to the city (1957), it is suggested that it refers to property owners here from Staines in Middlesex. A third explanation is that ‘staining’ means ‘stone built’ (as with All Hallows Staining) as opposed to merely built of wood as many early churches were.

Sadly the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and all that remains today are a few gravestones in the park again the north wall which you can see here. The parish was combined with St Michael Wood street – another lost church – which was demolished under the Union of Benefices Act in 1897. Both these parishes were then united with St Alban Wood Street – of which only the tower still stands today having been destroyed in the Blitz of WW2. So the final resting place of the parish of St Mary Staining is with St Vedast Foster Lane. The latter is now a church of 13 united parishes, a testament to how many of these City of London churches have been lost.

Old Gravestones at the location market in red on the next photo
St Mary Staining park showing gravestones location

One of the most interesting things about walking around the streets of the City of London is how little they have changed since medieval times. Below are printed three maps – from 1676, 1900 and 2022. Note that the coloured Ogilby and Morgan map below shows the parish boundaries. But if you compare these three you will notice that very little has changed in the layout. Buildings have been lost and redeveloped, but as you can see if you also refer to earlier Agas map above, a medieval citizen would have no trouble navigating the streets. If he was standing at St Pauls, and you asked him to go to St Mary Staining, he would walk the same streets with the same names as you would today.

Coloured parishes on the Ogilby & Morgan map of 1676
An OS map from 1900 showing St Mary Staining
Modern map 2022 showing St Mary Staining