|St Katharine Cree Churchyard||City of London|
The present church of St Katharine Cree was built in 1628-31 when the older church was pulled down apart from its tower of c.1504. Creechurch, abbreviated from Christchurch, referred to the Priory of Holy Trinity, Christ Church in Aldgate, founded in 1108. St Katharine's served inhabitants of the priory precinct before it became a separate parish church in 1414. According to church records of 1565 the churchyard was occasionally the venue for performance of morality plays by groups of travelling actors. Its current layout as a garden dates from 1965; the C17th gateway to the churchyard was installed with a wall fountain, and a plaque records it as the Fitch Garden, 'dedicated to those who work in this City and to the memory of James Fitch 1762-1818'. Fitch had opened a cheesemongers shop near here in 1784, a family firm still existing as Fitch Lovell Ltd when the garden was opened in 1965.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2010
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St Katharine Cree Churchyard, June 2010. Photo: S Williams
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The present church of St Katharine Cree was built in 1628-31 when the older church was pulled down except for its tower of c.1504, the lower stages of which remain today. The new church was consecrated by Bishop Laud in 1631. There was a church here from at least the early C13th, with a parish of St Katharine de Christchurch referred to in a will of 1280. Creechurch, an abbreviated form of Christchurch, is a reference to the Priory of Holy Trinity, Christ Church in Aldgate, founded in 1108 when 4 parishes were united. St Katharine's was built to serve inhabitants of the priory precinct on the site of the priory churchyard. St Katharine became a separate parish church in 1414 but retained the Christchurch from its association with the Priory. By 1365 the parish churchyard was a separate entity. The church is a rare example of a Gothic design with Renaissance detail. The font by Nicholas Stone was presented to Sir John Gayer, Lord Mayor of London in 1641, whose escape from a lion is commemorated in a special sermon. The painter Hans Holbein, who died of the plague in 1554, is reputedly buried in the old church, although this is not certain, and both Handel and Purcell played the organ here. Also formerly from the old church is a fine altar tomb to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, ambassador to France for Queen Elizabeth I (d.1570). The church survived the Great Fire of 1666 and was used by the City's livery companies serving food to the workers who were rebuilding the livery halls that had burnt down.
St Katharine's is one of seven churches that were made Guild Churches by Act of Parliament in the 1950s, so that 'spiritual provision was made for the very large daytime population of the City', and is known as the Guild Church to Finance, Commerce and Industry. The church is entered from Leadenhall Street and its churchyard behind is now reached from Mitre Street. The churchyard was occasionally used as a place for performance of morality plays by groups of travelling actors; church records of 1565 refer to a licence granted for this purpose.
The churchyard was laid out as a garden in 1965 at which time the gateway that had led from the east end of the church to the churchyard, which had previously faced onto Leadenhall Street, was installed against the wall of the garden. It consists of a Portland stone doorcase with reclining cadaver beneath the central pediment below which is a plaque stating that 'this gate was built at the cost and charges of William Avenon, Citizen and Goldsmith of London who died in December 1631'. When it was installed here, a wall fountain was installed in the doorway with an animal's head above the bowl and plaque naming this as the Fitch Garden which 'was dedicated to those who work in this City and to the memory of James Fitch 1762-1818' who had opened a cheesemongers shop near here in 1784, a family firm still existing as Fitch Lovell Ltd when the garden was opened in 1965. The church has had bells in its tower since the C16th and in 2009 the process of restoring them commenced.
George Godwin & John Britton 'The Churches of London: A history and description of the Ecclesiastical Edifices of the Metropolis, Volume II', London, 1839; Simon Bradley & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London', 1997 (1999 ed.); 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