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St Nicholas Cole Abbey City of London


It is not known why the church was called St Nicholas Cole Abbey. The pre-Fire church was ancient, the main body predating its C14th tower and south aisle. By the C16th the church was below the surrounding ground level, which had been raised in the interim. Destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, a new and larger church by Wren was built in 1677. The church was bombed in WWII and rebuilt in 1961/2 but later closed to worship. Gate piers and railings remain either side of the flight of steps leading up to the church door from Queen Victoria Street, with gravelled areas either side.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
Cole Abbey Presbyterian Church

Site location:
Queen Victoria Street/Distaff Lane/Old Fish Street Hill

EC4V 4BJ ( Google Map)

Type of site:

C12, 1672-78; 1962


Listed structures:
LBI: St Nicholas Cole Abbey Church

City of London

Site ownership:
Church of England

Site management:
Church of England

Open to public?

Opening times:
currently closed, awaiting conversion

Special conditions:



Public transport:
Tube: Mansion House (District, Circle)

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2010
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:
0.0167; 0.0315 adjacent court

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:

In Conservation Area:

Tree Preservation Order:

Nature Conservation Area:

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:
Yes - St Paul's Heights Policy Area

Other LA designation:
Strategic Viewing Corridor

St Nicholas Cole Abbey

St Nicholas Cole Abbey, November 2002. Photo: S Williams

Click photo to enlarge.

Fuller information

It is not known why the church is called Cole Abbey, but Stow attributes this potentially to its exposed site, i.e. 'Cold Bay'; another explanation is that it is corruption of 'Cold Harbour' or a shelter for travellers. The pre-Fire church was ancient, the main body predating the tower and south aisle which were built in 1377 by a benefactor named Buckland who restored the building, extending it over adjacent property. The church contained monuments from early C14th and by the C16th the church was below the surrounding ground-level, which had been raised in the interim. Other works were carried out to the building in 1628 and 1630. Patronage of St Nicholas Cole Abbey had belonged to the Dean and Chapter of St Martin-le-Grand until Henry VII granted it to the Abbot and Convent of Westminster; it devolved to the Crown upon Dissolution whereupon it was assigned to various families including that of Colonel Francis Hacker who commanded the guard that led Charles I to the scaffold and who was later executed after the Restoration, when the Crown once again took possession of the church. The building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and in 1677 the new and larger church by Wren was, according to Strype, the first to be completed after the fire. At that time the parish joined with that of St Nicholas Olave. In 1874 further works were undertaken including an overthrow of the gateway to Queen Victoria Street with a statue of St Nicholas, later moved to the Vestry. The cornship weathervane on the steeple was erected here when St Michael Queenhithe was sold and demolished in 1875. The church was again restored in 1928/31 but it was bombed in World War II and rebuilt in 1961/2 by Arthur Bailey, with a Chagall-esque stained glass window by Keith New. The parish was combined with St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe (q.v.) and the church became the Diocesan Council for Mission and Unity. From 1982-2003 the church was leased by the Free Church of Scotland, but later closed.

In 2006 the Church of England announced that it was to be converted as a National Centre for Religious Education. Gate piers and railings remain either side of the flight of steps leading up to the church door from Queen Victoria Street with gravelled areas either side. The church was associated with the Fishmongers' Company, Distaff Lane previously being known as Fish Street.

In the 1960s the area to the west side of church was laid out as public open space with paving, a raised bed along the wall abutting the church and seating; a number of trees have been planted and it provides excellent views of St Paul's Cathedral.

Sources consulted:

John Stow, 'A Survey of the cities of London and Westminster . . .' Corrected, improved and enlarged by John Strype, 1720; 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

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