St Katharine Cree
|St. Katharine Cree|
Photo of church
|Denomination||Anglican, earlier Roman Catholic|
St Katharine Cree is a Church of England church in the Aldgate ward of the City of London, on the north side of Leadenhall Street near Leadenhall Market. It was founded in 1280. The present building dates from 1628 –1630. Formerly a parish church, it is now a guild church.
Foundation and early years
The parish served by the church existed as early as 1108, when it was served by the Augustinian Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate, also known as Christ Church, which was founded by Maud, queen at the time of King Henry I. The parishioners used the priory church but this proved unsatisfactory and disruptive to the priory's activities.
The prior partially resolved the problem in 1280 with the foundation of St Katharine Cree as a separate church for the use of the parishioners. The site of the present church was originally in the priory's churchyard and it is possible that the church had its origins in a cemetery chapel. It took its name from the priory, "Cree" being a corrupted abbreviation of "Christ Church". It was initially served by a canon appointed by the prior but this did not prove satisfactory either, in 1414 the church was established as a parish church in its own right.
Describing the building at the end of the 16th century, John Stow wrote"this church seemeth to be very old; since the building whereof the high street hath been so often raised by pavements that now men are fain to descend into the said church by divers steps, seven in number".
The present church was built between 1628 and 1630.  It is larger than its predecessor, incorporating a piece of ground previously occupied by a cloister on the north side, and the floor level is considerably higher. The tower, dating to 1504, was retained from the previous building. The rebuilt church was consecrated by William Laud in his capacity as Bishop of London on 31 January 1631; his vestments and the form of service that he used in the ceremony were later held against him in his trial and conviction for heresy, when he was accused by Puritans of having displayed Catholic sympathies through his "bowings and cringings." He is commemorated by a chapel in the church. The church escaped the Great Fire of London in 1666 and suffered only minor damage in the London Blitz of the Second World War. However, structural problems required extensive restoration in 1962. It is now one of the City's Guild churches.
St Katharine Cree is regarded as one of the most significant churches of the Jacobean period, a time when church-building was at a historically low ebb, and is the only Jacobean church to have survived in London. The identity of its architect is unknown. It has a handsome if somewhat inconsistent interior, with a high nave, separated from the narrow aisles by arcades supported on Corinthian columns. The church is 94 feet (29 m) long and 51 feet (16 m) wide; the height to the ceiling of the nave is 37 feet (11 m).
The vaulted ceiling displays bosses bearing the arms of the City Livery Companies; this dates mostly from the restoration of 1962. The chancel has a fine rose window, reputedly modelled on the much larger rose window of Old St Paul's Cathedral (lost in the Great Fire). The stained glass, depicting a catherine wheel is original, dating from 1630, and the font dates from around 1640.
Today the church is a Guild Church and has no parish, but chose some years ago to dedicate its ministry to the worlds of finance, commerce and industry. The Guild Vicar is also Rector of St Olave Hart Street. In the summer of 2007 the church's six bells were rung for the first time since 1880, and in November 2007 an appeal was launched to raise £60,000 to restore the bells to full ringing order, a task which was completed in 2009. It is the only tower in the City where the bells are rung from a ground floor ringing chamber. The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.
Notable people associated with the church
- Stephen Charnock, Puritan Presbyterian clergyman and theologian, was born in the parish in 1628.
- Hans Holbein the Younger's grave (1543) has been claimed by both St Andrew Undershaft church and by St Katharine Cree. St Katharine Cree's claim is stronger because the nearby abbey had been recently destroyed, while St Andrew Undershaft's graveyard was already full.
- Both Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel played the organ at the church.
- Sir Nicholas Throckmorton (d.1570) is buried in the church.
- "The London Encyclopaedia" Hibbert,C; Weinreb,D; Keay,J: London, Pan Macmillan, 1983 (rev 1993, 2008) ISBN 978-1-4050-4924-5
- Daniell, A.E. (1896). London City Churches. London: Constable. pp. 94–8.
- Mentioned in Pepys Diary "Samuel Pepys-The Shorter Pepys" Latham,R. (Ed) p484: Harmondsworth,1985 ISBN 0-14-009418-0
- "The Old Churches of London" Cobb,G: London, Batsford, 1942
- Tucker, T. (2006). The Visitors Guide to the City of London Churches. London: Friends of the City Churches. ISBN 0-9553945-0-3.
- "St Katharine Cree". Love's Guide.
- Details from listed building database (199574) . Images of England. English Heritage. accessed 23 January 2009
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