All Hallows Bread Street

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All Hallows Bread Street was in the Bread Street ward of the City on the south side of Watling Street. First mentioned in the 13th century as Omn Sior in Bradst, the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The church was rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren and was later demolished in 1878.

The dedication All Hallows, meaning ‘All Saints’, suggests a Saxon foundation, although the earliest surviving reference is in a document of 1227. Bread Street runs from Cheapside, the main street and market place of medieval London (Cheap means market) Bread Street was the site of the bread market.

Two separate land grants to the church are recorded in 1349 and 1350, allowing the church to be expanded. The pre-Great Fire church had a stone steeple, which was struck by lightning in 1559. Part of the steeple fell to the ground, killing a dog. The remainder of the steeple was taken down to save money on repairs.

In 1555, during the reign of Mary I, the rector, Laurence Saunders, was burnt at the stake for preaching Protestant doctrine.

A stone plaque now in Bow Churchyard, commemorates the christening of John Milton in All Hallows Bread Street in 1608.

After the church’s destruction in the Great Fire, the parish was combined with that of St John the Evangelist Friday Street, which was also destroyed in the Fire, but not rebuilt.

Reconstruction began in 1681 and by 1684 the body of the church was complete. The unfinished tower was boarded over and work then stopped, due to the difficulty Wren experienced in paying for the simultaneous completion of several dozen churches, as well as the ongoing construction of St Paul’s Cathedral, from the Coal Tax receipts. A letter from 1697 survives from the then Lord Mayor, Edward Clarke, lobbying Wren to complete the steeple. The tower was finished in 1698. Among the vestry records are accounts for £12 of ‘florence’ wine for Wren and £11 for his assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor.

The parish of All Hallows Bread Street was combined with that of St Mary le Bow in 1876 and the church was demolished in 1878, under the Union of Benefices Act 1860. The furnishings were dispersed among several churches for example, the pulpit is now in St Vedast alias Foster, the organ case in St Mary Abchurch and the font cover in St Andrew by the Wardrobe.

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