On top of the steeple of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside sits a flying dragon. It is a weather vane, over six feet long and is believed to be the original from the 17th century. St Mary-Le-Bow is one of the City’s most important churches and to be a true cockney you needed to be born within the sound of its bells!
In fact she is described as a Maiden – the Mercers Maiden. You will find her, in various forms, on buildings owned by the Mercers Company. The Mercers are a livery company and ranked number 1 among the livery companies of the City of London. They own lots of property all over London so look on the buildings and when you see a Mercers Maiden you’ll know what it is!
To find out more about livery companies come on our City highlights tour.
A rare statue of Mary Queen of Scots can be found in Fleet Street. Join us on our Fleet Street walk to find out more
St Brides Fleet Street is possibly London’s oldest site of worship, with Roman and Saxon origins. The first stone structure was in the 6th century on the site of an earlier Roman graveyard and buildings and was dedicated to St Bridgid, hence St Brides, an important Irish saint from Kildare who died in 525 AD. There were several rebuilds after that but it was destroyed in the great fire. Rebuilt to Wren’s design, and said to be his most expensive parish church, it was finished in the 1670’s although the famous steeple was only finished in 1703 and is Wrens highest. Gutted in the blitz, like so many on the evening of the 29th December 1940, it reopened in 1957. It’s thought this is the 7th structure on the site.
It became an important church. It lay between Westminster and the city of London and was a notable stopping off place. King John held both a court there in 1205 and a parliament in 1210. Many notable clergy were attracted to the area around St Brides and in 1501 Wynken de Worde set up England’s first moveable type printing press in St Brides’ churchyard. After all if you want to sell books then being amongst folk that can read is a good start and the clergy were usually literate. He was successful and soon the area attracted poets, playwrights and the great and the good who all wanted to be associated with St Brides
But the last word must go to William Rich. Apprentice baker in Ludgate he fell in love with his masters’ daughter and they were to get married. He wanted to bake a special cake for their wedding but lacked inspiration. Then one day he gazed up at St Bride’s steeple with its diminishing octagonal stages and thought that he could create a cake like that, and the wedding cake was born.
To find out more about St Brides and Fleet Street, book a Fleet Street Guided Walk
In fact a statue above the West entrance to St Bartholomew’s hospital. The hospital was founded in the 12th century by Rahere as part of a priory. It was given a reprieve by Henry viii in 1546 after the priory was dissolved. Hence the statue of Henry, believed to be the only outdoor statue of him in London. Find out more about Rahere and the priory on our Smithfield walk.
Once a whole church this is all that remains of the church of St Alban in Wood Street. The rest fell victim to the bombs of the second world war. It had already been rebuilt once after being destroyed in the great fire of 1666. It was rebuilt by Christopher Wren only to meet a similar fate.To find out more come on our City Highlights tour.