Dutch Church, Austin Friars

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Dutch Church, Austin Friars
Nederlandse Kerk London
The oldest Dutch foundation in the world
Location 7 Austin Friars, London
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Dutch Reformed
Website www.dutchchurch.org.uk
Style Georgian architecture
Minister(s) Joost Röselaers

The Dutch Church, Austin Friars (Dutch: Nederlandse Kerk London) is a reformed church[1] in the Broad Street Ward of London.[2] Located on the site of the 13th-century Augustinian friary, the original church stood for nearly 400 years before being completely destroyed during the London Blitz.

The present church was rebuilt between 1950 and 1954[1] and is a familiar landmark in the Broad Street Ward.[3] With the foundation dating to the 16th century, it is the oldest Dutch-language Protestant church in the world.[4]


Portrait of Willem Thielen, minister of the Dutch Church, 1634 by Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen
The Dutch Church (1820) by Edward Wedlake Brayley from A Topographical and Historical Description of London and Middlesex

The original church was a monastic priory known as the Austin Friars, London, a contraction of "Augustinian Friars", founded circa 1253 by Humphrey de Bohun, 2nd Earl of Hereford (d. 1275).[5] The priory was dissolved in November 1538.[6] The City of London attempted to buy the church of the friary from the Crown in 1539 and again in 1546 but was rebuffed. In 1550, London's community of "Germans and other strangers" was granted the use of the friary church's nave;[7] the rest of the church was turned into a storehouse, with the monuments sold for £100 and the lead stripped from the roof.

By 1570, the Dutch community was the largest group of expatriates in London, numbering 5,000 out of the 100,000 total population of the time. About half of the Dutch in London were Protestants who fled the Flemish Low Countries due to religious persecution. Others were skilled craftsman, including brewers, tile makers, weavers, artists, printers and engravers, who came to England for economic opportunities. Engraver Martin Droeshout, famous for his 1623 portrait of William Shakespeare, was among the Flemish Protestant emigrants who arrived in London.[1]

The nave became the first official nonconformist chapel in England under its Polish-born minister John a Lasco (known in Poland as Jan Łaski) who founded a preaching house for a congregation of Protestant Walloon refugees.[8] On 24 July 1550, the Dutch Stranger Church received a royal charter that gave Protestant refugees from the Netherlands permission to establish their own parish and it was incorporated by letters patent from King Edward VI. Upon incorporation, the church was named the "Temple of the Lord Jesus" and given four pastors: two for the Dutch church, and two for the French-Walloon church meeting in St Anthony's Chapel.

A century later, the arrival of William of Orange brought a second wave of Dutch emigrants to London. This second group included noblemen, bankers, courtiers, merchants, architects and artists.[1]

20th century[edit]

Interior view towards the East
The Foundation stone

On 15–16 October 1940, just a decade before the Dutch Church celebrated its 400th anniversary, the medieval building was completely destroyed by German bombs . A few rare documents were salvaged, including Dutch Bibles, atlases and encyclopedias. The church's collection today includes a multilingual Bible published by the Plantin Press of Antwerp in 1569-1571, and a 1649 atlas of all the cities in the Low Countries by Willem Blaeu.

The foundation stone of the new church was laid on 23 July 1950 by the 10-year-old Princess Irene of the Netherlands. The new church, built to the design of Arthur Bailey, was completed in 1954. The new building is a concrete box frame, externally clad in Portland stone.[9] The church possesses detailed archives,[10] and is a popular tourist attraction.[11]

The church was designated a Grade-II listed building on 25 September 1998.[9] In 2000, the church celebrated its 450th anniversary; Prof. Keetie E Sluyterman at the University of Utrecht published a book about the church and its history, De Kerk in de City.[1][12]

21st century[edit]

The church remains active today, with Dutch-language services, a choir, confirmation classes, and women's youth groups. The church also includes community outreach, including ministering to the elderly and Dutch citizens incarcerated in London jails.[1]

In April 2014, minister Joost Röselaers of the Dutch Church confirmed that his church was open to perform weddings for same-sex couples.[13]

Members of the Dutch Stranger Church[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Reinier Salverda. "The Dutch Church in London Past and Present". Digital Library for Dutch Literature. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  2. ^ British History On-line
  3. ^ The City of London—a history, Borer, M.I.C. : New York, D. McKay Co, 1978 ISBN 0-09-461880-1.
  4. ^ "The Dutch Church" (in Dutch). DBNL. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Victoria County History, London, Vol.1, 1909, Friaries: The Austin Friary, pp.510-513
  6. ^ Page, p.512
  7. ^ Holder, Nick (2011). "The Medieval Friaries of London (PhD thesis)" (PDF). University of London. , p. 173
  8. ^ Churches of the City of London, Reynolds, H: London, The Bodley head, 1922.
  9. ^ a b Historic England. "Details from image database (479546 )". Images of England.  accessed 24 January 2009
  10. ^ Guide to the City Churches, Betjeman, J: Andover, Pitkin, 1974 ISBN 0-85372-112-2.
  11. ^ More details
  12. ^ De Kerk in de City, Sluyterman, K.E. Hilversum, Verloren, 2000 ISBN 90-6550-609-8.
  13. ^ Arjen van der Horst (14 April 2014). "Yes, I will in de Dutch Church". Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 20 March 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′56″N 0°5′8″W / 51.51556°N 0.08556°W / 51.51556; -0.08556