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St Bride's

#392 of 1,299 things to do in London
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Address: Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8AU, England
Phone Number: +44 20 7427 0133
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10:00 am - 6:30 pm
Closed now
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Sun 10:00 am - 6:30 pm
Mon - Fri 8:30 am - 6:30 pm

Just down the road from majestic St Paul's Cathedral is another of Sir...

Just down the road from majestic St Paul's Cathedral is another of Sir Christopher Wren's creations, the little known church of St Bride's, also called "The Printer's Church." Tucked away in a busy corner of Fleet Street, it is easy to miss, but look out for the towering steeple. It may look unremarkable next to the grandeur of St Paul's, but this tiny church was the home of the first printing press, inspired the multilayered wedding cake and triggered a row between Benjamin Franklin and George the III.

Among the parishioners of this church were such literary figures as Milton, Dryden, Johnson and Pepys.

St Bride takes its name from the Irish saint St Bridget of Kildare, a 5th century Irish saint famous for her hospitality, who founded several churches. Since then, several reconstructions have followed. After the original church was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666, Sir Christopher Wren redesigned the building in 1673. His building, in turn, was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, but the much-admired steeple survived.

The present building is a reconstruction of Wren's design.

As you step into the church, you will notice the several memorials to journalists, newspapers and the printing trade. In 1500 William Caxton's assistant, the aptly named Wynkyn de Worde, brought the first moveable type printing press to the church courtyard. It was used to print religious books and messages from the clergy, and later to print books and plays. Nearby churches also began to set up printing presses, and ever since then Fleet Street has been the centre of the publishing industry. Writers including Samuel Johnson, Boswell and Pope lived near St Bride's.

That quintessential Londoner, Samuel Pepys, was born just around the corner and baptized in St Bride's. The journalist's altar at one end of the church was established when hostages were being taken in the Middle East. It now commemorates journalists killed or injured worldwide. A brass plaque also commemorates the 300th anniversary of the founding of the world's first daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, in 1702.

The graceful spire, originally 234 feet, is the tallest of Wren's steeples and has inspired many a poet. Among these was W.E. Henley, who in his poem "The Song of the Sword" described the spire thus, The while the fanciful, formal finicking charm Of Bride's, that madrigal of the stone

Grows flushed and warm And beauteous with a beauty not its own.

The spire also inspired a Fleet Street confectioner called Thomas Rich, who made a replica of the spire in icing, a model for the traditional wedding cake still seen today. The party dress of Rich's wife is displayed in a glass case in the church, perhaps in thanks for her contribution!

The steeple also triggered a comical row between King George the III and scientist Benjamin Franklin. In 1764 the spire was struck by lightening, which reduced its height by 8 feet. Franklin, by then considered an expert on lightning, was asked to advise the King on the installation of lightening rods. Franklin suggested installing conductors with pointed ends, but the King wanted to install blunt ones. Not surprisingly, the King got his way. The British political press was delighted with the outcome, and published propaganda gleefully praising the King "as good blunt honest George" while the hapless Franklin was described as "a sharp-witted colonist."

The church has other connections to America. The parents of Virginia Dare, the first white child born in America and named after the state of Virginia, were married in this church in 1584. A bust of Virginia was originally displayed in the church, but was later stolen. A replica stands in its place. Edward Winslow, one of the leaders of the Mayflower and later Governor of Plymouth in Massachusetts, was also married in this church.

It was not until 1953 that archeologists discovered that St Bride's stands on Roman remains dating back to the 2nd century A.D, including a Roman pavement. On a grislier note the church crypt was also found to contain thousands of human remains, thought to belong to victims of the Great Plague of 1665 and the cholera epidemic of 1854. These have now been given a proper burial, and visitors interested in the church's Roman origins can now enter the crypt to see the original Roman ruins.

by Kavitha Rao

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TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

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Free recitals at St Brides

Just recently I attended a free piano recital at St Brides Church in London England.Both the recital and the church were excellent . The church has a barrel vaulted ceiling and a... read more

4 of 5 starsReviewed 5 days ago
Carol K
Ottawa, Canada

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49 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
7 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 5 days ago NEW

Just recently I attended a free piano recital at St Brides Church in London England.Both the recital and the church were excellent . The church has a barrel vaulted ceiling and a wonderful tiered steeple. The tale is told that a nearby baker used this spire to create the first tiered wedding cake a very long time ago. Indeed the... More 

Thank Carol K
Level Contributor
59 reviews
21 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 24 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 28, 2015

Escape from the throng of Fleet Street and into the peace of this gem of a church. Pause for some few minutes, sitting down in the nave, and admire the wonderful oak colonnade screen which is a perfect counterpoint to the baroque. You'll be refreshed with its embracing warmth of colour and feeling of revival (just think of the ruin... More 

Thank PaulWuE
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
39 reviews
17 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 2, 2015

I hadn't visited St Bride's for more than a decade. It is a hidden gem just off Fleet Street. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and the spire tower is the inspiration for the tiered wedding cake There has been a church/ place of worship for 2000 years. In the Crypt there is an exhibition of its history. Most of the... More 

Thank Talented49
Tibshelf, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
121 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 59 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2015

St Bride's is tucked away down an alley off Fleet Street. It is the journalists church and there are many plaques giving details of those who are no longer with us. The church has an absolutely beautiful interior and it is well worth taking the effort to search it out. The crypt is extremely interesting with parts of it dating... More 

Thank Alan S
United Kingdom
Level Contributor
101 reviews
53 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 24 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 9, 2015

Our tour guide explained that this church is also known as the "wedding cake church." Apparently there is a story that a baker from times long past was in the middle of creating a wedding cake and gazed out the window for inspiration. Upon seeing St. Bride's, the tiers in the church inspired him to make tiers in the wedding... More 

Thank Julietta D
Shrewsbury, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
29 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 8, 2015 via mobile

Rebuilt after being extensively bombed in 1940, this is one of London's oldest churches. It was redesigned after the GFoL by Sir Christopher Wren. We paid £6 to go on the guided tour and it was extremely fascinating. Our guide was most knowledgable and told us lots about the history of the church. The best part was visiting the crypt.... More 

Thank 0akheart
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
480 reviews
230 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 102 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 23, 2015

The Church is great to look at from the outside. You should also go in to escape from the hustle and bustle of London to relax (and pray if you want). The interior is impressive too and when I was there there was a piano recital which made the visit even better.

Thank ScottishTemplar
Torquay, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
112 reviews
50 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 54 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 26, 2015

A beautiful church that was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, but destroyed in WW2 and rebuilt. It is the church for journalists and printers. You must visit the crypt which shows the amazing history of this site, going back to Roman times. One of those amazing little places that you may not think of visiting or just walk past. It... More 

Thank Alan M
Essex UK
Level Contributor
268 reviews
133 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 113 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 28, 2015

There is a theatre at St Bride's Foundation very close to the church. It often has good theatre productions both in the evening and at lunchtime, where you may eat your packed lunch. They have a special reputation for musicals. Lots of print and press connection here, too.

1 Thank malaita
Fremantle, Australia
Level Contributor
129 reviews
38 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 132 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 11, 2015 via mobile

As it would be, as we know it, designed by Christopher Wren but in all, 6 churches have been on the site, dating from 2000 years ago. Noted for the wondrous wedding cake spire, St Brides, the journalists church has a magnificent choir, and regular musicals during the week. It is very moving to visit the side altar and light... More 

2 Thank flyawayfairy

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