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