St Botolph’s sits at the threshold of the City of London and the East End, and looks west towards the financial heart of the country and east to the diversity surrounding Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane.
Aldgate was the Eastern gate of the Roman City of Londinium and beyond it, in the area around St Botolph’s was the Romans’ Eastern Cemetery.
There is reference to a church on this site in 1125, although some claim an earlier church may have been here in Saxon times. The church was enlarged in the 15th century, and rebuilt the following century and, though it escaped the Great Fire of London in 1666, by 1741 it had become dilapidated and an Act of Parliament was passed allowing the old church to be pulled down. The church you see today was built in 1744 at a cost of £5,580, to the specifications of the City Surveyor, George Dance the Elder, who had earlier built Mansion House in the City. The interior of the church was remodelled by John Francis Bentley in 1888 - 1893. Bentley was responsible for much which is now admired including the stucco ceiling of angels, and the galleries with white balustrades.
The church sustained relatively minor damage during the Blitz of the Second World War. In 1965 a fire broke out in church, destroying vestments, stained glass and memorials, and damaging woodwork. The church was restored and re-hallowed in the presence of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1966.
Among monuments of interest are two located immediately as you enter the church. Robert Dow was a local benefactor who made provision for the poor of the parish in his Will. Sir Arthur Darcy is commemorated with his father (Thomas, Lord Darcy) and father-in-law (Sir Nicholas Carew) both of whom were executed by King Henry VIII for rebellion at the start of the English Reformation. Thomas Bray is also commemorated in one of the wall tablets in the chapel: he was Curate here at the beginning of the 18th Century, and founded both the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (formerly USPG).
The floor tablet, immediately as you enter, remembers the ‘longest night’ of the London Blitz in 1941, when 1,486 were killed in London. The spot marks the place where a bomb fragment, which fell through the roof, embedded itself.
Most of the stained glass dates from 1969-72, and commemorates former Aldermen of Portsoken who were elected as Lord Mayor of London. However, the large window behind the altar dates to 1857 and is based on Rubens’ painting of ‘Christ’s descent from the Cross’.
St Botolph's has the oldest working church organ in the country. Pre-dating the current church (c1705), it is attributed to the organ builder Renatus Harris.
St Botolph’s continues to be an open and community-focussed place of Christian worship, living out a questioning faith, radical hope, and inclusive love, where you and all are welcome and where our human diversity is celebrated and affirmed.
Only current parish registers are kept in the church (christenings since 1927, and weddings since 1945). Other records (including all records of Holy Trinity, Minories) are now held by the London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell, where they can be consulted. (If you have a subscription on Ancestry, you can view images of our parish records via Ancestry under card catalogue.)
Burials ceased in 1853, when the churchyard was closed. Though a small number of gravestones still survive, the burials themselves are all unmarked. (Some have been re-buried in east London cemeteries during the road-widening schemes in the Victorian times and subsequently.)
Though the current church dates from 1744, some of the memorials taken from the previous mediaeval building still survive.