City of London

St. Mary-le-Bow, City of London

This is the church which contains the famous Bow Bells – within the sound of which you need to be born to be a true Cockney. This was one of the oldest of all the City of London churches before it was destroyed in the Great Fire. Afterwards it was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren around 1679. Of Wren’s church only the tower now remains and there is some doubt as to whether the rest of the church was ever built to his design.

In 1941 St. Mary-le-Bow was directly hit by an incendiary bomb which destroyed the body of the church and left only the smoking remains of the tower standing. Whereas a number of other churches remained that way, it was considered that St. Mary-le-Bow was too important and so it was rebuilt to designs by Laurence King.

The interior of the church is built in a kind of neo-Georgian style with a big barrel roof and much stucco and gilding. The black and white tiled floor sets this off well, although would never have been put into a real Wren church. The interior is spacious and surprisingly large for a church squashed into such a small spot.

Below stairs there is a further surprise as the Norman crypt of the pre-Fire church has survived intact. It is a three-aisled crypt dating to around 1090 and here can be found the “Court of Arches” an ecclesiastical court.

This is the "Great Bell of Bow" in the Oranges and Lemons Rhyme.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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