St Bartholomew the Great - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Bartholomew the Great

• The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great is located at West Smithfield. The church possesses the most significant Norman interior in London, which once formed the chancel of a much larger monastic church.

• It was established in 1123 by Rahere, an Augustinian canon, who is said to have erected the church in gratitude after recovering from a fever. Rahere's supposedly miraculous recovery contributed to the church becoming known for its curative powers, with sick people filling its aisles each 24 August, St Bartholomew’s Day.

• The oriel window was installed inside the church of St Bartholomew the Great in the 16th c. by Prior William Bolton, allegedly so that he could spy on the monks. The symbol in the centre panel is a crossbow bolt passing through a ‘tun’ (or barrel), a pun on the name of the Prior.

• The church was originally part of an Augustinian Priory adjoining St Bartholomew's Hospital but while the hospital survived the Dissolution, about half of the priory church was demolished in 1543. The nave of the church was pulled down but the crossing and choir survived and it continued in use as the parish church. The entrance to the church from Smithfield now goes into the churchyard through a tiny surviving fragment of the west front, which is surmounted by a half-timbered Tudor building. From there to the church door, a path leads along roughly where the south aisle of the nave was. Parts of the cloister also survive but little trace survives of the rest of the monastic buildings.

• The church escaped the Great Fire in 1666, but fell into disrepair, becoming occupied by squatters in the 18th century. It was restored and rebuilt by Aston Webb in the late 19th century. The Lady Chapel at the east end had been previously used for commercial purposes and it was there that Benjamin Franklin served a year as journeyman printer. The north transept had formerly been used as blacksmith's forge.

• The church was one of relatively few City churches to escape damage during the World War II. Having been much used, abused and restored over the years the building now presents an interesting and impressive collection of architectural styles.

• A new organ was installed by John Knopple in 1715. This was superseded by an organ installed in 1731 by Richard Bridge. In 1886, it was replaced by the organ from St Stephen Walbrook which was installed by William Hill. Further modifications were made in 1931 by Henry Speechly & Son, 1957 by Noel Mander and in 1982-83 by Peter Wells.

• The church's name (sometimes shortened to "Great St Barts") is owed to the fact that it is one of two, nearly neighbouring, churches both linked with the hospital and priory and both dedicated to St Bartholomew. The other, inside the hospital precinct, is considerably smaller, less architecturally distinguished, and of less obvious historical importance. • The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.

• The church has been the location for several films including, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Other Boleyn Girl and Sherlock Holmes. The church also housed the chapel of the Imperial Society of Knight Batchelor until 2005. St Bartholomew the Great is the adopted church of various livery companies and is the setting for their annual religious services: these include Worshipful Company of Butchers, Founders, Haberdashers, Fletchers, Farriers and Farmers


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