City of London

St. Mary Woolnoth, City of London

This is clearly not a Wren church and is, in fact, the only City of London church designed entirely by Wren’s star pupil, Nicholas Hawksmoor. The medieval church here was only damaged during the Great Fire and Wren made repairs to it. However, these repairs were perfunctory (Wren was probably more concerned with his complete redesign of the rest of the City of London) and within a few years the church was considered too dangerous for use.

It was demolished in 1711 and Hawksmoor was commissioned to build a replacement. Unusually Hawksmoor was given the bonus of extra space to build around his church as the surrounding buildings were demolished when the old church was and he responded by producing one of the City’s most distinctive churches.

It was completed by 1716 and shows many of Hawksmoor’s trademarks; precise almost mathematical designs and the intricate interplay of the horizontal lines of frontage with the curve of the doors and the horizontals of the upper part of the church are particularly effective.

Hawksmoor was never given the kudos that Wren received and his work has often been demolished without care. This fate was almost shared by St. Mary Woolnoth many times in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. When Bank Station was built underneath the Church the buildings were given permission to demolish it and it was only saved when the public got wind of the proposals and protested.

William Wilberforce is one of those who is known to have worshipped here.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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