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St Mary-at-Hill

St.Mary-at-Hill is a Church of England church on Lovat Lane, a cobbled street off Eastcheap in the ward of Billingsgate, London, England.

Although the official address is Lovat Lane, the more notable side faces the street called "Mary at Hill" where there is a huge two-faced clock extending several feet into the street. There is a narrow alleyway alongside, but no right of way.


Rebuilt many times, St Mary-at-Hill was originally founded in the 12th Century, where it was first known as "St. Mary de Hull" or " St. Mary de la Hulle. John Stow's "Survey of London" (1598) mentioned that a church has stood on this site since at least the 14th century. It was rebuilt in the 15th Century only to be destroyed in the Great Fire of London, which began only a few feet away in Pudding Lane. The shape of the current church is based on the rebuilding of Christopher Wren between 1670 and 1676, although it has been renovated since by George Gwilt in 1787-8, and James Savage in 1827 and 1848-9, latterly after a fire. The roof and interior were damaged by fire yet again on 10th May 1988 and it was restored in 1991.

The plan of St. Mary-at-Hill is roughly square, with a western tower on the street front flanked by a north and south narthex.. Wren spanned the square space by a barrel vault in a Greek-cross plan, with a dome at the centre, supported on four fluted Corinthian columns. Inside there are some original seventeenth century box pews and matching high quality 19th Century replicas by the eminent woodcarver William Gibbs Rogers.

Sir John Betjeman said of the church:

“This is the least spoiled and the most gorgeous interior in the City, all the more exciting by being hidden away among cobbled alleys, paved passages, brick walls, overhung by plane trees…”

Music and traditions

From 1510 the Chapel Royal choir sang here. The organ-builder Mighaell Glocetir worked at St.Mary-at-Hill from 1477 to 1479. He is possibly the same person as the builder Myghell Glancets who worked on St.Michael church at Cornhill in 1475. The great composer Thomas Tallis was organist at St.Mary-at-Hill in 1538-1539. A William Hill organ was installed in 1848 and partly restored after the 1988 fire, but a more complete restoration did not commence until 2000. It is now used for concerts on Thursday lunchtimes.

In several books on English folklore, or about ceremonies of London, there is mention of the costermonger's festival held here every October. It also goes by the name "Fish Harvest Festival" or "Harvest of the Sea", associated with the fishmarket that was held at Billingsgate. Another notable ceremony is Beating the Bounds, where notables and children process around the boundary of a parish or ward on Ascension Day, carrying slender rods. Originally the children were whipped (not severely) at points along the route. Almost every example died out in the middle of the nineteenth century, but the account books of St.Mary-at-Hill testify to its existence here. Four shillings were paid for the provision of fruit on the day of the "Perambulation" in 1682. In another example at Chelsea the whipped children were given four pence. One rare surviving example of "Beating the Bounds" is at the nearby church "All Hallows by the Tower", where it is held every three years.


The poet Edward Young, author of Night Thoughts was married here in 1731. The antiquarian John Brand became rector here in 1784.

Parliament outlawed new burials in the City of London during the Victorian era, forcing the closure of its churchyards; in 1847 the church acquired a small part of the consecrated ground in West Norwood Cemetery for its own parish use.


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