St Mary at Hill

Lovat Lane

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• St Mary-at-Hill was originally founded in the 12th century and it was first known as ‘St. Mary de Hull’ or ‘St. Mary de la Hulle’.

• Although the official address is Lovat Lane, the more notable side faces the street called "St Mary at Hill" where there is a huge two-faced clock extending several feet into the street. There is a narrow alleyway alongside, but no right of way.

• St Mary-at-Hill was already in existence by 1336. The north aisle was rebuilt at the end of the fifteenth century, and a south aisle and steeple were added a little later. John Stow, writing at end of the sixteenth century described it as "the fair church of Saint Marie, called on the Hill, because of the ascent from Billingsgate".

• The church was badly damaged in the Great Fire of 1666 which began only a few feet away in Pudding Lane. After the fire, the parish of St Andrew Hubbard, which was not rebuilt was united with St Mary at Hill. Christopher Wren rebuilt the interior and the east end, but retained the medieval walls on the other three sides, and the west tower to which he added a lantern. Wren's east end has a Venetian window, now blocked up, and a broken pediment. His interior has four free-standing Corinthian columns, supporting barrel vaults in a Greek cross pattern, and a coffered central dome. The church is 96 feet long and 60 feet wide.

• There have been considerable alterations since the seventeenth century. In 1787-8 George Gwilt Senior rebuilt the west wall and replaced the tower in brick and in 1826-7 James Savage installed round headed iron-framed windows in the north wall and replaced the vaults, ceilings and plasterwork. In 1848-9 he added a cupola to the dome and cut windows through the chancel vault. In 1849, the seventeenth century woodwork was sympathetically augmented and adapted by W. Gibbs Rogers.

• The church survived the Second World War unharmed, but was severely damaged by a fire in 1988, after which the roof and ceiling had to be rebuilt. Much of the woodwork, including the box-pews, has not been reinstated. Writing before the 1988 fire Sir John Betjeman said of the church "This is the least spoiled and the most gorgeous interior in the City, all the more exciting by being hidden away among cobbled alleys, paved passages and brick walls, overhung by plane trees…"

• From 1510 the Chapel Royal choir sang here. The organ-builder Mighaell Glocetir worked at St.Mary-at-Hill from 1477 to 1479. He is possibly the same person as the builder Myghell Glancets who worked on St. Michael’s Cornhill in 1475. The great composer Thomas Tallis was organist at St. Mary-at-Hill in 1538-1539. A William Hill organ was installed in 1848 and partly restored after the 1988 fire, but a more complete restoration did not commence until 2000. It is now used for concerts on Thursday lunchtimes.

• A hoard of coins (now known as the Mary Hill hoard) was found in a basement near St Mary Hill church in the 18th century. The hoard included the only known example of a coin from the Horndon mint.

• Parliament outlawed new burials in the City of London during the Victorian era, forcing the closure of its churchyards; in 1847 the church purchased burials rights 'in perpetuity' in a small section of the consecrated ground in West Norwood Cemetery for its own parish use. • The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.


St Mary at Hill

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