St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate

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St Helen's Bishopsgate
St Helens Bishopsgate.jpg
St Helen's Bishopsgate pictured in 2006
LocationLondon, EC3
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationChurch of England
Previous denominationRoman Catholicism
ChurchmanshipConservative evangelical
Heritage designationGrade I listed building
RectorThe Revd William Taylor

St Helen's Bishopsgate is a large conservative evangelical Anglican church in London. It is located in Great St Helen's, off Bishopsgate.

It is the largest surviving parish church in the City of London and it contains more monuments than any other church in Greater London except Westminster Abbey, hence it is sometimes referred to as the "Westminster Abbey of the City".

It was the parish church of William Shakespeare when he lived in the area in the 1590s.[1][2] In 1608, prominent jurist Sir Alberico Gentili was buried in the church.


The church of St Helen dates from the 13th century and a priory of Benedictine nuns was founded there[3] in 1210.[4] It is unusual in that it was designed with two parallel naves, giving it a wide interior.[5] Until the dissolution of the priory in 1538, the church was divided in two by a partition running from east to west, the northern half serving the nuns and the southern the parishioners.[4] It is the only building from a nunnery to survive in the City of London.

The priory had extensive monastic buildings; its hall was later used by the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers until its demolition in 1799. A crypt extended north from the church, under the hall.[4]

In the 17th century two Classical doorcases were added to the otherwise Gothic church.[4][6] In 1874 the parish was united with that of St Martin Outwich when the latter's church was demolished, and the first incumbent of the new parish was John Bathurst Deane. St Helen's church was heavily restored by John Loughborough Pearson in 1891–1893, and reopened on St John the Baptist's Day in 1893 by the Bishop of London, Frederick Temple.

Interior of St Helen's Bishopsgate

St Helen's was one of only a few City of London churches to survive both the Great Fire of London of 1666 and the Blitz during World War II.[7] In 1992 and 1993, however, the church was badly damaged by two IRA bombs that were set off nearby.[8] The roof of the building was lifted and one of the City's largest medieval stained glass windows was shattered. The church has since been fully restored although many of the older monuments within it were entirely destroyed. The architect Quinlan Terry, an enthusiast of Georgian architecture, designed the restoration along Reformation lines.

The natural philosopher, architect and polymath, Robert Hooke, was buried at St Helen's Bishopsgate, but the precise location of his grave is unknown.

Present day[edit]

Owing to parish consolidation over the years, the parish is now named "St Helen's Bishopsgate with St Andrew Undershaft and St Ethelburga Bishopsgate and St Martin Outwich and St Mary Axe". The Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors are the patrons of the benefice.[9]

The church was designated a Grade I-listed building on 4 January 1950.[10]

St Helen's Church is within the conservative evangelical tradition of the Church of England, and it has passed resolutions to reject the ordination of women and/or female leadership.[11] In 2017 its rector, William Taylor, was one of a few British figures among the initial signatories of the traditionalist Nashville Statement on sexuality and gender roles.[12]

Church plants[edit]

St Helen's has been involved in numerous church planting initiatives in recent years, some within the auspices of the Church of England, some outside of it.[13]

Name Location Web Type Affiliation Founded Minister Notes
Christ Church, Mayfair Mayfair [14] Church Diocese of London 2001 Matt Fuller Also a Co-Mission church
St Peter's Barge Canary Wharf [15] Church Diocese of London 2003 Marcus Nodder Britain's only church on a boat
Grace Church Dulwich Dulwich [16] Church Diocese of London 2005 Simon Dowdy Meet in a local primary school
Grace Church Wanstead Wanstead [17] Church Independent 2006 David Gibbs Joint plant with Christ Church Leyton. Meet in Wanstead House
Grace Church Hackney Hackney [18] Church Diocese of London 2007 Andrew Jones Meet in St Anne's, Hoxton
Trinity Islington Islington [19] Church Diocese of London 2007 Jeremy Hobson Meet in St Mark's, Myddelton Square
Euston Church Bloomsbury [20] Church Diocese of London 2010 Kev Murdoch Since 2015 has met in Church of Christ the King, Bloomsbury
Grace Church Brockley Brockley [21] Church FIEC 2011 Raymond Brown Meet in Crofton Park Baptist Church
Redeemer, Croydon Croydon [22] Church Independent 2013 Will Dobbie Joint plant with Christ Church Bromley.[23] Meet in a local primary school
Grace Church Sydenham Sydenham [24] Church Anglican Mission in England 2015 Tim Iles Meet in a youth centre
Grace Church Greenwich Greenwich [25] Church Diocese of Southwark 2015 Andrew Latimer Joint plant with St Peter's Barge. Meet in Old Royal Naval College
Crossway, Stratford Stratford [26] Church Independent 2016 Jamie Child Meet in university buildings
St Nicholas Cole Abbey City of London [27] Church Diocese of London 2016 Chris Fishlock Sunday services re-started for first time since 1941
Covent Garden Talks Covent Garden [28] Lunchtime talks Meets at the Swiss Church, Endell Street
Euston Area Talks Bloomsbury [29] Lunchtime talks Meets in Church of Christ the King, Bloomsbury
Fleet Street Talks Fleet Street [30] Lunchtime talks Meets in a building on Fleet Street
London Bridge Network London Bridge [31] Lunchtime talks
Moorgate Talks Moorgate [32] Lunchtime talks
St Botolph's, Aldersgate City of London [33] Lunchtime talks Diocese of London Simon Dowdy Church used for lunchtime talks but not for regular services
Westminster@One Westminster [34] Lunchtime talks 2000 Also a Co-Mission initiative. Meets in Methodist Central Hall

St Helen's also owns the church of St Peter upon Cornhill, which does not hold regular services but is used for various St Helen's purposes including the Cornhill Training Course and a Mandarin Sunday service, and the church of St Andrew Undershaft.

St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate is located in Greater London
St Helen's
St Helen's
St Peter's Barge
St Peter's Barge
CC Mayfair
CC Mayfair
GC Hackney
GC Hackney
GC Dulwich
GC Dulwich
GC Sydenham
GC Sydenham
GC Wanstead
GC Wanstead
GC Brockley
GC Brockley
Redeemer Croydon
Redeemer Croydon
GC Greenwich
GC Greenwich
Crossway Stratford
Crossway Stratford
Cole Abbey
Cole Abbey
Churches planted from St Helen's (red = London Diocese; blue = outside CoE)


  1. North wall of the nuns' choir, near the west end, Alderman John Robinson, 1599. An Elizabethan group of kneeling figures; the deceased and his wife with nine sons and seven daughters.
  2. In the north-east corner of the "Gresham Memorial Chapel" at the east end of the nuns' choir, altar tomb of Sir Thomas Gresham, 1579. Founder of the Royal Exchange and the Gresham Lectures.
  3. Side by side with the preceding, Sir Julius Caesar Adelmare, 1636. Judge of the Court of Admiralty. Altar tomb with Latin epitaph in the form of a deed to which is affixed the broad seal of the deceased.
  4. In the south-east corner of the Gresham Memorial Chapel, Sir Andrew Judd 1558. Founder of Tonbridge School.
  5. Under the chancel arch, north of the high altar, Sir William Pickering, 1574. Ambassador in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Altar tomb with recumbent figure surmounted by a lofty canopy.
  6. Under the chancel arch, south of the High Altar, Sir John Crosby 1476[35][36] founder of Crosby Hall, and Agnes his wife. Altar tomb with recumbent figures.
  7. In the Chapel of the Holy Ghost, Sir John Oteswich and his wife. Formerly in the church of St Martin Outwich.
  8. Against the south wall of the church, sightly to the west of the south entrance, Sir John Spencer and his wife, 1609. Altar tomb under a canopy with recumbent figures, and a third kneeling figure.


The organ dates from 1744 when an annuity organ by Thomas Griffin was installed. It has undergone several restorations since by builders such as George Pike England in 1810, J. C. Bishop and Son in 1910 and 1923, Hill, Norman and Beard in 1929 and 1957, and Martin Goetze & Dominic Gwynn in 1996. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.

The organ is of notable historic significance and has been awarded a Grade II* listing by the British Institute of Organ Studies.


  • Thomas Griffin 1744–1771
  • George Griffin 1771–1809
  • William Henry Cutler 1809–1819
  • George Warne 1819–1820
  • Joseph Nightingale 1820–1842/7?
  • William Richard Bexfield 1848–1853
  • Mr Deane 1854
  • Miss A. Barton 1867
  • Richard Simpkin 2004?-Present



The church holds three English-speaking services each Sunday, one at 10:30 am, another at 4 pm and a 6 pm evening service. The Sunday afternoon and evening services are followed by an informal meal and opportunities to socialise.

There are also numerous small groups which meet at the church during the week. These include the "Read, Mark, Learn" (RML) groups which either study the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of John, the Epistle to the Romans or a Bible overview over the course of a year. There is also the Central Focus group which studies a whole variety of topics and books from the Bible. The church also runs the Christianity Explored course regularly.



  • 1954-1958: Gordon Jones
  • 1958-1960: Peter Coleman
  • 1961-1967: David Macinnes
  • 1970-1973: Ian Barclay
  • 1973-1978: Robert Howarth
  • 1976-1981: Jonathan Fletcher
  • 1977-1978: Thomas Oates
  • 1978-1982: James Spence
  • 1982-1984: Simon Manchester
  • 1985-1995: Hugh Palmer
  • 1990-1995: Justin Mote
  • 1994-1996: Carrie Sandom
  • 1994-1998: Richard Coombs
  • 1995-1998: William Taylor
  • 1995-1998: Jonathan Juckes
  • 1998-2007: Nigel Beynon
  • 2000-2005: Simon Dowdy
  • 2002-2005: James de Costobadie
  • 2003–present: Charlie Skrine
  • 2003-2007: Ben Cooper
  • 2004-2011: Mark O'Donoghue
  • 2004-2009: Lee Gatiss
  • 2005–present: Matt Fuller
  • 2007-2017: Dr Andrew Sach
  • 2007-2012: Chris Fishlock
  • 2007-2013: Paul Clarke
  • 2007-2010: Andrew Towner
  • 2009–present: Dr Aneirin Glyn
  • 2009-2014: Thomas Nash
  • 2010-2017: Jamie Child
  • 2016–present: Mickey Mantle

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hales 1904, pp. 401–2.
  2. ^ In Search of Shakespeare. Bishopsgate
  3. ^ "The City Churches" Tabor, M. p37:London; The Swarthmore Press Ltd; 1917
  4. ^ a b c d Godwin, George; John Britton (1839). The Churches of London: A History and Description of the Ecclesiastical Edifices of the Metropolis. London: C. Tilt.
  5. ^ "London:the City Churches” Pevsner,N/Bradley,S New Haven, Yale, 1998 ISBN 0-300-09655-0
  6. ^ Nairn, Ian. Nairn's London. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 28.
  7. ^ "The Old Churches of London" Cobb,G: London, Batsford, 1942
  8. ^ "The Visitors Guide to the City of London Churches" Tucker,T: London, Friends of the City Churches, 2006 ISBN 0-9553945-0-3
  9. ^ Details of the history of St Helen's and the other churches in this benefice (St Andrew, St Martin Outwich etc) in the 17th century can be found in Lee Gatiss, The Tragedy of 1662: The Ejection and Persecution of the Puritans. Gatiss Archived 2007-09-11 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1286458)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
  11. ^ "Christmas 2016 Newsletter" (pdf). Bishop of Maidstone. December 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  12. ^ Williams, Hattie (8 September 2017). "To sign or not: Nashville Statement on sexuality debate intensifies". Church Times. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  13. ^ "St Helen's Bishopsgate - About - Links". Retrieved 2017-04-08.
  14. ^ "Christ Church Mayfair". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  15. ^ "St Peter's Barge". St Peter's Barge. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  16. ^ "Grace Church Dulwich - Prayer, Proclamation, People". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  17. ^, Kane Balagtey -. "Grace Church Wanstead!". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  18. ^ "Grace Church Hackney". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  19. ^ "Welcome". Trinity Church Islington. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  20. ^ "Welcome". Euston Church. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  21. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  22. ^ "Where God Changes Lives - Redeemer Croydon". Redeemer Croydon. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  23. ^ "Ship of Fools: The Mystery Worshipper". Retrieved 2018-01-08.
  24. ^ "Grace Church Sydenham - Grace Church Sydenham". Grace Church Sydenham. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  25. ^ "Grace Church Greenwich". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  26. ^ "Crossway Stratford | Your Vibrant Church in Stratford London". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  27. ^ "St Nick's Church". St Nick's Church. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  28. ^ "Covent Garden Talks – Bringing Jesus into work". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  29. ^ Talks, Euston Area. "Euston Area Talks - Euston Area Talks". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  30. ^ "The Fleet Street Talks – a mid-week church in the heart of the city". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  31. ^
  32. ^ Talks, The Moorgate. "The Moorgate Talks > Home". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  33. ^ "The Aldersgate Talks:". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  34. ^ "Westminster at 1". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  35. ^ "Churches of the City of London" Reynolds, H. : London, Bodley Head, 1922
  36. ^ 'Appendix 2: The will of Sir John Crosby', Survey of London Monograph 9: Crosby Place (1908), pp. 69–84 Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  37. ^ "The Benefice of London City St Helen, Bishopsgate with St Andrew Undershaft and St Ethelburga, Bishopsgate and St Martin Outwich and St Mary Axe". Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  38. ^ "The Benefice of London City St Helen Bishopsgate with St Martin Outwich". Retrieved 2017-12-05.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′53″N 0°04′54″W / 51.5148°N 0.0818°W / 51.5148; -0.0818