St Mary at Hill, between Eastcheap and Lower Thames Street, and its monuments
St Mary at Hill, showing the clock.
The church lies just just east of London Bridge, going along Lower Thames St, then up the little cobbled
side street which is called St Mary at Hill towards Eastcheap; an alternative entrance is from Lovat Lane. The
only indication of the church, with its flat front to the street and tower set back, is the protruding clock;
and more conspicuous is the tower of St Margaret Pattens framed against the top of the street across Eastcheap.
St Mary at Hill is a work of Christopher Wren dating from 1677, and he
incorporated part of the walls of the pre-Fire edifice on the site. The tower was also kept, but replaced
later by Gwilt - it is not visible from the street, in the view above, but can be seen from the little churchyard.
The mason for the church, who was also a statuary, was the eminent Joshua Marshall, who carried out
work for Wren on a variety of his churches.
We enter through a gate to the little square of what remains of the churchyard, wherein is
the entrance to the church. The yard, the last remnant of the burial ground, was closed in 1846, as noted on a
panel. A few broken monuments are against the church wall, with dates between 1701 and 1880.
One of several monuments in the yard, to Sarah Slater Vickers, d.1831.
Inside, the church is effectively a large and largely empty hall, with stacked chairs for use in meetings
etc, but looking somewhat bare, though it does make it easy to admire the architectural features. The arched
ceiling is decorated with a variety of minor stylised flowers and
leaf fronds and light patterning in a Frenchified manner. There is much dark woodwork around the vast altar
which reaches to the ceiling, with carving including the Royal coat of arms with unicorn and lion above the clock,
and lots of panels of fruits etc. Over one side door is another version of the coat of arms. Some plainer panelling
up to about 5ft runs around part of the rest of the interior. Some of the 17th Century woodwork needed
replacement in the 19th Century, in a competent, sympathetic style that is hard to tell from the original.
The glass is mainly plain, with a bit of modern colour.
And of primary interest to these pages, we have in the main body of the church and the entrance lobby a
crop of wall monuments, including a bust, a serious cartouche or two, and some more minor things. Notable
monuments, then, in date order from the 17th and 18th Century, and one from the 19th Century, include:
- John Woods d.1658, and first wife Anne d.1645, and John Woods, eldest son by second wife d. 1670. Citizen
and Distiller of London, whose first wife was daughter of a Haberdasher, and the second, daughter of an ironmonger.
Dark stone, surrounded by paler, less usual than the opposite combination. The monument has two free Corinthan
pillars, a broken pediment with decorated shield and two particularly vile cherubs sitting on the side portions,
and holding wreaths. There are good little 17th C lions’ heads under the pillars. Minor decoration below with
- Daniel Wigfall, merchant, son of Henry Wigfall of Renishan in the county of Derby, d. 1698/9. A well-designed
cartouche, solid, with swirls and drapes around, and little cherubs’s heads in amongst all this. Coat of arms
and visored helmet and droopy leaves above.
- John Harvey, d.1700. The inscription notes he was son of Stephen Harvey by Elizabeth his wife,
daughter of Martin Freman Esq, ‘all ancient inhabitants of this parish and benefactors of the same’, all
written in fine flowing script with curly tops to the verticals. Cartouche with border scrolling, winged
cherubic head underneath, coat of arms on top and little summit flaming urn. The monument is signed, by the
Irish sculptor William Kidwell, who made several significant monuments in England.
- Thomas Davall, and wife Anna d.1700, Merchant in London. A large plaque with receding pilasters, an
hourglass, trumpets, coat of arms and foliage and the common little knight’s helmet, covered in drapes over
the open rounded pediment, free-hanging folds on each side, urn with flame on top, three winged cherubim heads
- Henrietta Vickars d.1712/3, with Latin inscription, a fine cartouche with draped surround with knots and
encompassing cherubic heads, two coats of arms, and little visored helmet.
- Joseph Martyn, d.1718, and his wife Maria, with short Latin script. Solid monument with curved front,
Corinthian fluted pilasters, receding back, broken pediment with frond-covered coat of arms, probably broken
off and sunk down, and missing a pot on top. Contoured base and brackets, and underneath, a now-blank coat of
arms with little drapes to side and behind, very accomplished.
- William Johnson Rodber, rector of the Church, d.1843. This features a stone bust in a niche, rather plain
of face but carefully made, with underneath a pile of religious bits and bobs and a book, scattered to give an informal aspect.
There are pillars to each side, and a pedimental structure of a dove and sunburst above, rather well done.
Samuel Nixon was the sculptor, and this work seems typical of his style, though I have
not seen so much of it. The inscription notes that the monument was
erected by parishioners, and we may note with approval that Rodber was also secretary to the
Incorporated Society for the enlargement and repair of churches and chapels &c.
There are a few other notable monuments in the porch:
- Isaac Millner d.1717, with a long inscription, the monument also commemorating a variety of his
offspring, including his son Isaac, d.1743. An ambitiou,s tall wall monument, with two pillars, then a
baseless pediment to create an attic storey encompassing both the space of the pediment and the entablature,
with shield and billowing decoration, and little knight helm. Above is a pot and two lounging cherubs, while
to the side of the base are two further cherubs, standing, wiping their eyes with handkerchiefs, each with a
foot on a skull. An added section below has an inscription and minor decoration including cherubic heads at
the base. The sculptor was the prolific Edward Stanton, responsible for much carved stonework at Westminster
Abbey in the 1820s and 30s.
- William Smyth d.1726, and 15 of his 16 children, an oval inscription in a shaped rectangular slab with
ogee curved top, coat of arms, large pot above, framed against a dark tall pyramidal backing, and a single
winged cherubic head below.
- John Crane of Ireland, once of County Down, later Croydon, d.1823, and wife Elizabeth d.1819 and infant
son. A large panel with coat of arms and fronds beneath, upturned torches to sides, and a pediment with
wreath and flourishes.
- Below the Millner Monument is the remains of some panel showing the Last Judgement with nude
figures rising from graves, and following upwards a figure with a flag, and others perhaps falling downwards.
An angel placed centrally at the base of the composition is sorting out the goodly from the sinners. Even
damaged, the work conveys a sense of urgency and immediacy.
Outside in St Mary at Hill street, we may note that just up the road and opposite, on a wall is an old arch,
decorated with vermiculation, and wide pillars showing rope and floral designs – it looks to be one segment of
a line of arches.
Just down the street from the Church is firstly a door with a pediment containing a much painted skull and
crossbones, seemingly wearing a raised visor. And near the bottom is a small building housing the Company Of
Watermen and Lightermen, classical, one bay wide with arched windows pilasters, and high relief designs of
two-tailed mermaids, and dolphins, all in a medievalised style. A rather good pedimental bearded head is above
the ground floor window.
The carved arch.
Top of page
South and West along Lower Thames St to St Magnus the Martyr
// East to St Dunstan in the East (ruin) // or to All Hallows Barking
City Churches // Christopher Wren // London sculpture // Sculptors
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