|St Edmund the King and Martyr Churchyard||City of London|
The church is likely to be of Saxon origin and is dedicated to Edmund, the King of East Anglia who died in 870 attempting to escape the attacking Danes. It was also known as St Edmund's Grass-church due to the grass market once held nearby. It was burnt down in the Great Fire and rebuilt under the supervision of Wren; it was later restored in 1864 and again following WWII damage. In 2001 it became the London Centre for Spirituality. The existence of the churchyard is referred to in 1220; it closed for burials in 1853 and now has a small enclosed garden. Among those buried here was John Shute (d.1563), an architect who published what may be the first work on practical architecture in England. Joseph Addison, the celebrated essayist and politician, married Charlotte, Countess Dowager of Warwick and Holland, at St Edmund's in 1716.
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St Edmund the King and Martyr Churchyard from George Yard, June 2010. Photo: S Williams
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The church is likely to be of Saxon origin, dedicated to Edmund, the King of East Anglia who died in 870 attempting to escape the attacking Danes; the church is mentioned in 1157-80 and in C13th wills. Existence of the churchyard is referred to in 1220. It was also known as St Edmund's Grass-church due to the grass market once held here from which the name Gracechurch Street derives. Once in the ownership of the Priory of the Holy Trinity, Aldgate, the church was given to the Archbishop of Canterbury after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The church was burnt down in the Great Fire and rebuilt under the supervision of Wren by Hooke, with the steeple possibly by Hawksmoor, and was completed by 1690. At that time the parish amalgamated with that of St Nicholas Acon, which was destroyed in the Fire and whose churchyard in Nicholas Lane existed until the late C20th. St Edmund's was restored in 1864 by William Butterfield, and the church survived threat of demolition in 1889. Damaged in both World Wars and rebuilt each time, it was again restored. Among those buried in the old church was John Shute (d.1563), an architect who in 1550 was sent by the Duke of Northumberland to study in Italy after which he published what may be the first work on practical architecture in England. Joseph Addison, the English essayist and politician, was married here to Charlotte, Countess Dowager of Warwick and Holland on 9 August 1716.
The churchyard closed for burials in 1853 and is now a small garden with one tree, raised beds and shrubs. It opens onto George Yard (q.v.) laid out 1929-32 and the churchyard railings date from the same period. Writing in 'The Old Churches of London', Gerald Cobb refers to the churchyards of St Ethelberga and St Edmund that 'have been turned into prim little gardens'. In 2001 St Edmund's became the London Centre for Spirituality, which moved into the Vestry Hall in that year, and it remains a consecrated Church. The vision for the Centre's project came from the Bishop of London who appointed the first director, Andrew Walker, in 2000. The Centre received formal status as a charitable company in 2001 and began its activities over the course of the next 2 years.
Simon Bradley & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London', 1997 (1999 ed.); George Godwin & John Britton 'The Churches of London: A history and description of the Ecclesiastical Edifices of the Metropolis, Volume II', London, 1839; Philip Norman, 'The London City Churches, Their Use, Their Preservation and Their Extended Use', The London Society, (1920s); London Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches data; Gerald Cobb 'The Old Churches of London', Batsford, 1942.