St Andrew Undershaft, City of London and its monuments

The church of St Andrew Undershaft, at the corner of Leadenhall St and St Mary Axe, is precious both as one of the very few surviving pre-Fire churches in the City of London, and most importantly, as far as these pages are concerned, for its large collection of monuments.

St Andrew Undershaft, in the 19th Century and now, and the maypole.

A few words on the Church itself. The antiquarian John Stow tells us it was rebuilt from 1520, and it was complete in 1532 (one of the corbels to the roof beams bears this date), with the lower part of the tower being a survival from an earlier church on the site, thus 15th Century. The main entrance from under this tower faces to Leadenhall Street, so that looking from St Mary Axe we see a distinctive silhouette of tower, a little over 90ft high (the top is 19th Century), nave two thirds of the height, and aisle, one third of the height, thus a stepped effect. From inside it all makes sense: the nave and attached chancel (there is little to differentiate between them) have a full length aisle on each side, but the south aisle (towards Leadenhall Street) has the western end (to St Mary Axe) occupied almost entirely by the tower.

The story of the name of the Church is well-known – the shaft was the giant maypole which stood by the Church, thus it was St Andrew under-the-shaft-of-the-maypole. The maypole was removed in 1517, and in the inimitable words of the Victorian writer A. E. Daniell, who wrote one of the many books on the City Churches, was later destroyed ‘as a relic of idolatry in an ebullition of fanaticism during the reign of Edward VI’.

Monuments

The monuments show many of the different types of wall panel used through the centuries. From the late 16th and early 17th Century we have excellent examples of kneeler monuments, with kneeling, praying figures under canopies, with rich surrounds, alabaster and coloured marbles and added paint, and low relef sculptural decoration combined with additional carved heads and subsidiary figures. From the 17th and 18th Centuries there are excellent examples of cartouche monuments – oval or violin-body shaped panels surrounded by carved scrolling and drapery, with winged cherub heads (if you like such things, see this page) and deaths-heads (bat winged skulls), in a Baroque alternative to the more architectural rectangular monuments. Also we have two panels carved as a hanging drape with a fringe at the bottom, a widespread but always rather unusual type. From the late 18th and early 19th Century there are three obelisk monuments, often called pyramid monuments, where above the main panel there rises a tall obelisk, typically with some relief sculpture of a pot or coat of arms upon it. St Andrew Undershaft has just a couple of the grand Classical panel of the 17th/18th Centuries, but a fair selection of the simpler panels of the early 19th Century, which are often styled to look like the end of a tomb chest, thus a panel with a lid above a projecting shelf, rather like a small, rimless pediment, perhaps with ‘ears’ or acroteria at its sides, and with the bottom of the panel cut to give two feet. Finally, from the early 20th Century are two of memorials reviving the use of coloured alabaster and marble, which had disappeared almost entirely around 1800, in an Arts and Crafts style, and then from 1983, a modern brass in the shape of a bell.

16th Century monuments

17th Century Monuments

End of the 17th Century: Datchelor monument and cherubs.

18th Century Monuments

19th Century Tablets

There are quite a number of 19th Century monuments in the Church, mostly without sculptural ornament, so we note them more briefly.

Mid-19th C panels: Peter Jones, by Nixon, and Sarah Gregory, composition based on an oval.

20th Century

20th C in historic style: Baronet Batho, d.1938, and Adrian Stedman, d.1716 (monument of 1983).

Modern brasses

There are about a dozen, dating from the 1890s to the 1920s. The typical modern brass consists mostly of the panel with text in black lettering, sometimes with the principal capitals in red, an inscribed line forming a border, and this being sometimes doubled, about a ruler’s thickness apart, to give a broader border which typically has some minor repeating decoration. More detailed ornament is not so common, and where present, is typically a small coat of arms, for example from a regiment in which the deceased served. These various features can be found amongst the St Andrew’s Undershaft collection, as well as entirely plain brasses. The particular elaboration favoured here is to have a segment of a circle at the top centre, with a mitre and crook, and there are three of these in the Church, for William Walsham How, Lord Bishop of Wakefield, d.1897, R. C. Billing, Bishop of Bedford, d.1908, and Charles Henry Turner, Bishop of Islington, d.1923, all of whom also held posts at the Church at one time or another.

Bishop Charles Turner, d.1923, one of three similar modern brasses.

The most elaborate modern brass in the Church is that to Philip Anthony Brown, d.1915, and Theodore Anthony Brown, d.1917, brothers who were killed in action in World War I, with the inscription to each brother in an inscribed wreath, with Regimental arms.

Also in the Church:

This page does not cover other features of St Andrew’s Undershaft, such as the doorways and the stained glass, but we note at least the following:

When St Andrew's had a steeple.

With many thanks to the church authorities at St Helen Bishopsgate for permission to use photos from inside St Andrew's Undershaft; their website is at http://www.st-helens.org.uk/.

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Just South-East to St Helen Bishopsgate // South across Fenchurch St to St Olave Hart St // Or to the tower of All Hallows Staining // Eatward to St Katharine Cree // or St Botolph Aldgate

City Churches // Introduction to Church Monuments // London sculpture

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