If you are the sort of church that has a long association with a famous bridge, it is possibly not that surprising that you might have a large model of said bridge in your building.

Such is the church of St Magnus the Martyr next to new London Bridge, and once at the end of the old London Bridge, before it was torn down in 1831.

St Magnus the Martyr

There have been churches of some sort on the site since Time Immemorial (in the literal sense) and the current incumbent is one of Sir Christopher Wren’s rather better buildings following the Great Fire of London with a very distinctive bell tower, and the later addition of a dramatic clock.

At the time of reconstruction the church stood right at the end of London Bridge, and the front of the clock tower was flat with the narrow road. When the buildings were stripped off the Bridge to make it easier for road traffic, the church tower now blocked the new pavements – so they cut an arch in the bottom and demolished the side buildings – and that is now the entrance to the church.

Although a Church of England property, it has strong Catholic leanings inside, thanks to the influence of a vicar in the early 20th century, but it is the model of London Bridge which makes the church more famous today.

St Magnus the Martyr

Donated fairly recently, it was presented to the Church by the Worshipful Company of Plumbers in 1987 – and depicts the Bridge as it would have appeared in around 1400. There are over 900 people depicted on the Bridge amongst the buildings, and King Henry V can be seen entering the City of London from the Southwark side.

London Bridge

Apparently, one of the tiny figures is in modern policeman’s uniform – although I couldn’t see which one. Then again I didn’t look that long.

London Bridge

London Bridge

London Bridge

Another curiosity of the church though has me somewhat baffled, as I cannot recall having ever seen it in other churches, although researching it shows that the custom was once commonplace.

On either side of the main entrance are four shelves, each with a loaf of bread on it, of varying age. Obviously there is a Biblical relationship, but according to the website, these were placed there on Saturdays for for distribution to the poor after Sunday morning service.

I can only presume from the state of the dusty loafs that the poor of the City are not too keen on their donation. Then again, they are now so stale that they could probably make quite solid projectiles if some malcontent youths want to have a riot against the City bankers.

St Magnus the Martyr

The church is open for visiting and for prayer Tuesday to Friday 10am to 4pm – with services at lunchtime. Some more photos here.

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7 Comments

  1. Kit Green

    1987 was the year that Where’s Wally first appeared and became a national obsession. I expect that one of the modellers wanted to put Wally on the bridge but got overruled and put a modern plod there instead.

    • IanVisits

      It’s a policeman because the man who made the model is an ex-copper.

  2. I know the bridge would be totally unpractical today, and that the old bridge slowed the thames flow enough to freeze it in winter (which would do no good for todays river traffic) but I would love to have seen it, if not just for the little church halfway across. Can you imagine the view from that!

  3. Peter Twist

    Another alarming feature of the 19 small arches in the Peter de Colechurch London Bridge, graphically represented in the model, were the raging torrents which flowed through each of them. Many lives were lost attempting to negotiate them, especially under certain tidal conditions. The practice for sensible travellers wishing to pass under the bridge was to disembark and hopefully join the boatman on the other side.

    As the old proverb decreed, London Bridge was for wise men to go over and fools under.

  4. John Carnaby

    The model maker of London Bridge in St Magnus was David Aggett, a very good friend of mine. He has also made many other models of old City landmarks, Plumbers Hall, the Monument, Mansion House to name but a few.

  5. Art Ramirez

    This the London Bridge sold to an American thinking he was buying Tower Bridge and now located in at Lake Havasu in Arizona.

    • IanVisits

      No it isn’t.

      a) That is the old London Bridge, not the one sold to the USA

      b) That the buyer thought he was getting Tower Bridge is a silly urban myth that has no foundation in fact.

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