Surround by the modern Barbican estate, this old church is one of the few within the City of London that are medieval in nature, having survived the Great Fire of London and WW2 bombs.
It’s not the original, as it’s thought there’s been a church on this location since Saxon times, and following the Norman conquest a small chapel was known to be here.
The current church was built during the middle-ages, which is probably when it gained its current name.
Cripplegate doesn’t mean what you might think but is a corruption of cruplegate, which refers to the gate having a noticeable tunnel through to the City within.
Nearby used to be a large Jewish cemetery, but following the expulsion of the Jews in 1290, the area was built over and started to take on the character of the narrow random streets that dominated medieval London. The church was rebuilt in 1394, with the tower added in 1682.
Right through to the centuries, the church stood there, surrounded by buildings and by the 20th century, it was largely hidden behind offices and shops.
Now though, it’s once more in a wide-open space within the modern Barbican estate, that’s the result of WW2 bomb damage.
Remarkably, while most of the area now occupied by the Barbican was destroyed by the war, the church stood in the wasteland as a sole survivor. It wasn’t undamaged, as the interior was totally gutted, but the walls and tower managed to hold together just long enough for restoration to take place in 1966.
Today the interior looks very much like a traditional old church but is entirely modern construction in a traditional style.
The church is based within the Parish of St Giles’ with St Luke’s, and is unique in the City of London Deanery in that people live in it – unlike the other parishes, which are mostly open to serve the commuter traffic or the guilds.
Today, with so many parish mergers as London’s population shrank in post-war years, its official title of the benefice is “St Giles Cripplegate with St Bartholomew, Moor Lane, St Alphage, London Wall and St Luke, Old Street with St Mary Charterhouse and St Paul, Clerkenwell – which is quite the mouthful.
Article last updated on December 11th, 2020 at 08:17 am