St Luke Old Street

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St Luke's Old Street
Finsbury st lukes 1.jpg
2006 photo
LocationOld Street, London
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationChurch of England (Deconsecrated)
DedicationSt Luke
Functional statusPreserved
Used as concert venue by the LSO
Architect(s)John James and Nicholas Hawksmoor
Years built1727-1773
William Caslon's grave
William Caslon I in an engraved portrait by John Faber the Younger

St Luke's is a historic Anglican church building in the EC1 postcode district of central London, and in the London Borough of Islington. It is now a music centre operated by the London Symphony Orchestra and known as LSO St Luke's. It is the home of the LSO's community and music education programme, LSO Discovery. The main body of the church seats up to 372 and is used by the LSO for rehearsals, and by a wide variety of musicians for performances and recording. Additional rooms in the crypt provide practice facilities for professional musicians, students and community groups.


The church is sited on Old Street, north of the City of London, and was built to relieve the church of St Giles-without-Cripplegate, Cripplegate,[1] under the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches, an attempt to meet the religious needs of London's burgeoning 18th century population. It was completed and the corresponding parish of St Luke's created in 1733.

The church was designed by John James, though the obelisk spire, a most unusual feature for an Anglican church, the west tower and the flanking staircase wings were by Nicholas Hawksmoor.[2] It stood in the historically marshy Moorfields area, and from an early date suffered from problems of subsidence. The effects of the subsidence remain visible in the distorted shapes of the windows on the north side of the church.

Buried in the small churchyard are architect George Dance the Elder, at one time a member of the vestry, and in a chest tomb, father and son type founders William Caslon.[3]The naturalist, Mark Catesby, is also buried in the churchyard.

The north side of St Luke's, showing the distortion of the windows caused by the subsidence which brought about the church's closure

Deconsecration and reuse[edit]

The parish was absorbed into St Giles-without-Cripplegate, City of London in 1959 and the font and organ case from St Luke's were moved there. The church was closed by the Church of England Diocese of London in 1964 after subsidence made it unsafe. The roof was removed two years later for safety reasons, and the empty shell became a dramatic ruin for 40 years, overgrown with trees, despite being a Grade I listed building.

After several controversial proposals to redevelop offices inside the retained walls, it was converted by the St Luke Centre Management Company Ltd for the London Symphony Orchestra as a concert hall, rehearsal and recording space, and educational resource. The conversion was designed by Axel Burrough at London architects Levitt Bernstein, who installed a heavy concrete slab roof which keeps out traffic noise from the nearby road. Though this is similar in profile to the former eighteenth-century roof, its great weight is supported on tall steel columns inside the hall described by the designer as 'tree-like'. The interior acoustic can be varied for different events, from full orchestra to soloists, by the use of absorbent surfaces that unroll like blinds across the ceiling and down the walls, whilst the seating and staging are also highly flexible.[4] A total of 1053 burials were recorded and removed during the restoration of the crypt. A documentary "Changing Tombs" covering the removal of the burials was produced at the time and can be found on YouTube.[citation needed]

Special events[edit]

The venue regularly hosts open rehearsals by the London Symphony Orchestra in advance of concerts at the nearby Barbican Hall, and has pioneered genre-busting events such as the Eclectica series, which combines classical, jazz, experimental and electronic sound-worlds.[5]

Junior Trinity, the junior department of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance have also performed at LSO St Luke's as part of their seasonal concerts with their Symphony Orchestra, Wind Orchestra, Sinfonia, Big Band, and other notable groups.

During 2006 the BBC used the venue to record concerts by Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon for broadcast.

Sir Elton John also recorded a concert to publicise his album The Captain & the Kid.

In 2007 MTV used the venue to record a concert from Editors, for broadcast in the same year.

Patti Smith, Philip Glass and Lenny Kaye performed a tribute to Allen Ginsberg in 2007.

Van Morrison recorded a concert at St Luke's on BBC Four Sessions on 25 April 2008 featuring songs from his 2008 album, Keep It Simple.[6]

In September 2008, Duffy played there for BBC Sessions; the concert was televised 12 October 2008.


  1. ^ Timeline of London accessed 25 Apr 2007 Archived 15 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Historic England. "Former Church of St Luke (1195700)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  3. ^ "St Luke Old Street". Rootsweb.
  4. ^ Glancey, Jonathan (27 February 2003). "Invasion of the bodysnatchers". The Guardian. London.
  5. ^ "LSO St Luke's UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica". LSO St Luke's. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
  6. ^ BBC Four sessions

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°31′30.66″N 0°5′38.61″W / 51.5251833°N 0.0940583°W / 51.5251833; -0.0940583