St Martin's Le Grand

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City of London Corporation street name sign indicating St. Martin's Le Grand is located in EC2.

St. Martin's Le Grand was a former parish and liberty within the City of London, and is the name of a one-way street in that location north of Newgate Street and Cheapside and south of Aldersgate Street.

Collegiate church[edit]

To the east of the road once stood the collegiate church and monastic precinct of St. Martin's, of ancient origin. The precinct was within the City, but was not subject to its jurisdiction, constituting a liberty with the privilege of sanctuary.[1]

According to a somewhat dubious tradition the church dated back to the 7th or 8th century and was founded by King Wihtred of Kent.[2][3] It was, more certainly, rebuilt or founded about 1056 by two brothers called Ingelric and Girard, during the reign of Edward the Confessor. This foundation was confirmed by a charter of William the Conqueror, dating to 1068.[1] The church was responsible for the sounding of the curfew bell in the evenings, which announced the closing of the City's gates. It was dissolved by King Henry VIII and demolished in 1548. However, it retained certain rights of sanctuary until 1697 and, as such, was a notorious haven for malefactors. One of those who sought sanctuary here was Miles Forrest, one of the reputed murderers of the Princes in the Tower.[1][4]

General Post Office[edit]

General Post Office headquarters in St. Martin's Le Grand (1820s).

The General Post Office established its headquarters on the site of the monastic precinct in 1829. From here mail coaches departed for destinations all over the country. Coaches bound for the north went up St. Martin's Le Grand through Aldersgate – the first section of the Great North Road (now the A1 route) to York and Edinburgh.[5] This replaced the previous starting point at Hicks Hall in Smithfield Market. The Post Office building, a grand Neoclassical design by Robert Smirke, was demolished in 1911, having been replaced by new premises immediately to the west, on the former site of Christ's Hospital school.[6]

Olympic marathon course[edit]

St. Martin's Le Grand formed part of the marathon course of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.[7][8]

Transport links[edit]

The nearest London Underground station is St. Paul's, at the southern end of the street.


  1. ^ a b c Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (1983) The London Encyclopedia: 735
  2. ^ Walter Besant (1906) Medieval London, Vol II: 234
  3. ^ History of London (1878) by Walter Thornbury
  4. ^ Dictionary of City of London Street Names ISBN 0-7153-4880-9
  5. ^ Norman Webster (1974) The Great North Road: 17
  6. ^ Davies, Philip (2009). Lost London 1870–1945. Croxley Green: Transatlantic Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-9557949-8-8. 
  7. ^
  8. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′59″N 0°5′49″W / 51.51639°N 0.09694°W / 51.51639; -0.09694