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St. Peter upon Cornhill
Photo from corner of Cornhill and Gracechurch Street
Photo from corner of Cornhill and Gracechurch Street

Country England
Denomination Evangelical Anglicanism
Architect(s) Sir Christopher Wren
Style Baroque
Parish St Helen's Bishopsgate

St Peter upon Cornhill (1687) is an Anglican church in the City of London, located on the corner of Cornhill and Gracechurch Street. It is currently a satellite church in the parish of St Helen's Bishopsgate, and is used for staff training, bible studies and a youth club.

The church was used by the Tank Regiment after the Second World War, subsumed under St Helen's Bishopsgate.


The oldest church?

An inscription in the churchyard claims that St Peter upon Cornhill is the earliest Christianised site in Britain [1], founded by the first Christian King, Lucius in 187. There is no solid archeological evidence of any Christian church in the United Kingdom during Roman times, although the site may have been the location of a Roman basilica. However, the Welsh version of King Lucius, Llewrug Mawr, is mentioned in Liber Pontificalis (c. 685). Bede mentions the legend of the founding of St Peter upon Cornhill in the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (731). There is further support for an early church in London, by the fact that at the Council of Arles in 314, the Bishops of London, York and Lincoln were present. One source says that King Lucius was buried in Chur, Switzerland. Another says that his grave is in Gloucester. There is a dedication stone in the vestry of the current building, unfortunately undateable. The myth of Lucius is said to be based on a mistranslated text - the original was to King Lucius of Edessa, not an unknown British king, see Pope Eleuterus [2]

Those who are looking for the earliest surviving Christian church in Britain should visit St Peter-on-the-Wall in Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex.

The current building

In 1444 a "horsemill" (a millstone pulled by horses?) was given to St Peter's. The bells of St Peter are mentioned in 1552, when a bell foundry in Aldgate was asked to cast a new bell. This church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666. It was replaced by the current structure, built by Christopher Wren in 1677 - 1687[3]. The chancel screen was designed by Wren's daughter. On top of the tower is a dome[4], and on top of that is a spire, creating a curious hybrid structure. On top of that is a representation of the key of St Peter, ten feet high. Charles Dickens mentions the churchyard in "Our Mutual Friend". A theatre group called The Players of St Peter were formed here in 1946 and performed here until 1987.[5] They are now based at St Clement Eastcheap where its members perform medieval mystery plays each November.

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 04 January 1950.[6]

Features and points of interest


The Three Devils of St Peter

In the nineteenth century a very observant vicar at this church noticed that plans for building a new structure next door intruded by one foot onto church territory. He raised legal objections and forced the architect to redraw the plans. In gleeful triumph he added three terracotta devils to the building facing Cornhill from the South. These can easily be seen silhouetted against the sky from on the north side.

Mendelssohn's autograph

The organ in the gallery of St Peter's has an old piece of manuscript on display. This manuscript has been autographed by Felix Mendelssohn. The St Helen's church office controls access to St Peter's [7].


In the 1830s, the notable missionary William Jowett was a lecturer at the church.[8]

See also


  1. ^ "London:the City Churches” Pevsner,N/Bradley,S New Haven, Yale, 1998 ISBN 0300096550
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "The Visitors Guide to the City of London Churches" Tucker,T: London, Friends of the City Churches, 2006 ISBN 0955394503
  4. ^ "The Old Churches of London" Cobb,G: London,Batsford,1942
  5. ^ Players of St Peter cast lists
  6. ^ Images of England — details from listed building database (199403) accessed 23 January 2009
  7. ^
  8. ^ Goodwin, G., revised by H. C. G. Matthew, 'Jowett, William (1787–1855), missionary', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004)

External links

Coordinates: 51°30′47.7″N 0°5′4.5″W / 51.51325°N 0.084583°W / 51.51325; -0.084583


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