St Botolph Street, EC3A

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There has been a church on this site for over 1000 years, with the first Rector recorded in 1108. The original Saxon building was enlarged in 1418 and almost entirely rebuilt in the next century. The present building, finished in 1744, is the work of Mansion House architect, George Dance the Elder. During the air raids the Rector, who in those days slept among the coffins in the Crypt, would come out onto the church roof to put out incendiary bombs. This was one of four medieval churches dedicated to this 7thCentury English saint who was the patron of travellers, hence churches near gates and quays were often dedicated to him. He also gave his name to Boston, in Lincolnshire, where he is thought to have founded an abbey. The road was recorded as Seyntbotulfeslane in 1349 and Botulpheslane in 1432. The Parish & Ward Church of St. Botolph without Bishopsgate explains: “Botolph and his brother Adolph were young Saxon nobles living in the 7thCentury, and were sent for their education to a Benedictine Abbey in France. Adolph rose to be a Dutch Bishop, whilst Botolph came back to his native East Anglia. He was given, by King Anna, a grant of land on which to build a monastery. This land was at Icanhoh, a site that has been said to be the present Boston (Botolph’s Town) in Lincolnshire but is more likely to have been Iken, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk. Certainly Icanhoh was in a marshland area, for Botolph was said to have expelled the swamps of their ‘Devils’ – in fact, he probably had the marshes drained and eliminated the ‘marsh gas’ with its night glow.” He died in AD680 and his monastery lasted a further two centuries until it was destroyed by the Danes. King Edgar  ordered that the saint’s remains be removed from the ruins, and divided into three parts: the head to be taken to Ely, the torso to  Thorney, and the remainder to Westminster Abbey. “The relics were brought to London through various towns and eventually through the four City gates of Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Aldgate and Billingsgate. The churches at the entrances to these gates were named after him.”

 

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