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All Hallows Bread Street
Stone tablet commemorating John Milton, now within St Mary-le-Bow
Stone tablet commemorating John Milton, now within St Mary-le-Bow

Country England
Denomination Roman Catholic, Anglican

All Hallows Bread Street was a church in the Bread Street ward of the City of London on the south side of Watling Street. First mentioned in the 13th century, the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The church was rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren and demolished in 1878.



The dedication All Hallows, meaning all saints, suggests a Saxon foundation, although the earliest surviving reference is in a document of 1227. Bread Street runs from Cheapside, the main street and market place of medieval London (Cheap means market) – Bread Street was the site of the bread market.

Two separate land grants to the church are recorded in 1349 and 1350, allowing the church to be expanded. The pre-Fire church had a stone steeple, which was struck by lightning in 1559. Part of the steeple fell to the ground, killing a dog. The remainder of the steeple was taken down to save money on repairs.

During the reign of Henry VIII, the church was closed for a month following a bloody fight between two priests. They were obliged to walk in penance from St Paul’s to Cheapside.

In 1555, during the reign of Mary I, the rector, Laurence Saunders, was burnt at the stake for preaching Protestant doctrine.

A stone plaque now in Bow Churchyard, commemorates the christening of John Milton in All Hallows Bread Street in 1608.

After the church’s destruction in the Great Fire, the parish was combined with that of St John the Evangelist Friday Street, also destroyed in the Fire, but not rebuilt. Reconstruction began in 1681 and by 1684 the body of the church was complete[1]. The unfinished tower was boarded over and work then stopped, due to the difficulty Wren experienced in paying for the simultaneous completion of several dozen churches, as well as the ongoing construction of St Paul's Cathedral, from the Coal Tax receipts.

A letter from 1697 survives from the then Lord Mayor, Edward Clarke, lobbying Wren to complete the steeple. Coincidentally or not, work recommenced and the tower was finished in 1698. The total cost of the church and tower was £4881. Among the vestry records are accounts for £12 of ‘florence’ wine (probably Chianti) for Wren and £11 for his assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor.

By the late nineteenth century, the number of parishioners had declined due to the move of the population to the suburbs. The parish of All Hallows Bread Street was combined with that of St Mary-le-Bow in 1876 and the church demolished in 1878, under the Union of Benefices Act 1860. The site and materials were sold for £32,254 and the proceeds used to build All Hallows East India Dock Road. The furnishings were dispersed to several churches – the pulpit is now in St Vedast alias Foster, the organ case in St Mary Abchurch and the font cover in St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe[2].

Initially occupied by warehouses, the site is now covered by the Watling Court development of 1977–81.


The main frontage of the church faced north onto Watling Street. It had eight round-headed windows (one of them blind) decorated with carved keystones. The church was in the shape of a slightly irregular quadrilateral with an annex protruding on the south. There was a balustrade on top. Stylistic evidence suggests that the design was by Robert Hooke.

The steeple, completed 14 years later, is the work of Nicholas Hawksmoor[3]. This comprised four obelisks on corner plinths of a balustraded tower, atop an arcade of 3 arches on 4 sides, each with a finely carved mask keystone[4]. Beneath this was the bell stage with round headed windows framed by swags. The stage below, marking the limit of building in 1684, had round windows.


  1. ^ The city churches of Sir Christopher Wren, Jeffery,P: (London Hambledon Press, 1996)
  2. ^ Vanished churches of the City of London, Heulin,G: (London, Guildhall Library Publications, 1996)
  3. ^ "The London Encyclopedia",Hibbert, Christopher/Weinreb,B(Eds):London, Macmillan, 1992
  4. ^ “The Old Churches of London” Cobb,G: London, Batsford, 1942

See also

External links

Coordinates: 51°30′47″N 0°05′42″W / 51.5131°N 0.0951°W / 51.5131; -0.0951



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