Happy St David’s Day!

March 1, 2011

It’s St David’s Day, Wales’ national day of celebration, so you may have noticed the Welsh flag flying in a few places you wouldn’t normally see it – including at 10 Downing Street. In keeping with the theme of all things Welsh, we’re taking a look at a couple of Welsh-related sites in London…

St Benet, Paul’s Wharf – Known as London’s “Welsh church”, the current St Benet’s was rebuilt to the designs of Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666 although a church has stood on this site for 900 years. Services have been held at the church (pictured right) in Welsh since 1879 after Queen Victoria granted Welsh Anglicans the right to worship in their own language there. Known formally at St Benet’s Metropolitan Welsh Church, the premises, located just off Queen Victoria Street in the City, has also been the church of the College of Arms since 1555. Among other historic titbits is the suggestion that both Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey – the “nine day Queen” – may have received the last rites here before going on to their executions at the Tower of London, that 17th century architect Inigo Jones was buried here, and that King Charles II had a special door built for himself in the side of the building and a private room where he could take part in services. See www.stbenetwelshchurch.org.uk

The London Welsh Centre – Located in Gray’s Inn Road, the centre’s origins go back to the founding of the Young Wales Association in 1920, created to provide a focus for young Welsh people in London. The organisation, which initially didn’t have a permanent home, held meetings in several locations before moving to the current premises in the 1930s. Today the premises is used by the London Welsh Centre and is the base for three choirs – the London Welsh Chorale, The London Welsh Gwalia Male Choir and The London Welsh Male Voice Choir. It also provides Welsh language classes and hosts concerts and other cultural events. See www.londonwelsh.org.

Memorial to Welsh poet Iolo Morganwg – A memorial plaque to this Welsh poet and antiquarian stands on Primrose Hill on the site where the first meeting of the Gorsedd of Bards of the Isle of Britain, convened by Morganwg, was held in 1792. The plaque was unveiled in 2009. Follow this link for more information.

Do you know of any other Welsh-related sites in London? Let us know…

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So we come to the final in our series on Wren’s London. This week we take a quick look at some of Wren’s remaining London works (keep an eye out for our upcoming ‘daytripper’ on Oxford for some detail of his works there)…

• The Monument. Built between 1671-77 to commemorate the Great Fire of London, it was designed by Wren and Dr Robert Hooke. For further information, see our previous post.

The Temple Bar. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672 to replace a crumbling wooden predecessor, it’s only recently been returned to the City and now stands adjacent to St Paul’s. For further information, see our previous post.

Churches. We’ve only looked in depth at a few of the existing churches Wren designed in London. But here are some of the others among the more than 50 he designed that still stand:

St Benet Paul’s Wharf. Originally completed in 1685, it claims to be the only “undamaged and unaltered” Wren church in the city, having survived World War II intact. Now the Welsh church of the City of London. See www.stbenetwelshchurch.org.uk.

St James Garlickhythe. Built according to Wren’s design, it was completed in 1682 (the tower not until 1717). It is known as ‘Wren’s Lantern’ due to its light interior. See www.stjamesgarlickhythe.org.uk.

St Margaret Pattens. Built between 1684 and 1687 after the previous church was destroyed in the Great Fire, the church gets its unusual name of ‘pattens’ from wooden undershoes that were worn to elevate people out of the mud, and were sold nearby. See www.stmargaretpattens.org.

• St Margaret Lothbury. Completed in 1692, it now incorporates seven adjacent parishes thanks to losses in the Great Fire, World War II and building projects and is now officially known as the parish church of “St Margaret Lothbury and St Stephen Coleman St with St Christopher-le-Stocks, St Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange, St Olave Old Jewry, St Martin Pomeroy, St Mildred Poultry and St Mary Colechurch.” See www.stml.org.uk.

St Martin-within-Ludgate. Rebuilding was largely completed by 1680. The previous church on the site was where William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was married. See www.stmartin-within-ludgate.org.uk.

Others, some of which have been rebuilt since Wren’s day, include St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, St Andrew Holborn, St Anne and St Agnes (Now St Anne’s Lutheran Church), St Clement Eastcheap, St Lawrence Jewry, St Mary Abchurch, St Mary Aldermary, Mary-le-Bow, St Michael, Cornhill, St Michael Paternoster Royal, St Nicholas Cole Abbey (being redeveloped as a centre for religious education), St Peter upon Cornhill, and St Vedast alias Foster. (We’ll be featuring some in more detail in later entries).