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Address: Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8AU, England
Phone Number: +44 20 7427 0133
Website
Today
10:00 am - 6:30 pm
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Hours:
Sun 10:00 am - 6:30 pm
Mon - Fri 8:30 am - 6:30 pm
Description:

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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Exquisite Historic Church

OK so there is a major renovation underway but this no way detracts from the beauty and tranquility of the church. History oozes from every pore. The wonderful crypt area with its... read more

5 of 5 starsReviewed 2 weeks ago
Andy S
,
Clanfield, United Kingdom
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57 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 48: English reviews
Clanfield, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
155 reviews
39 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 80 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 2 weeks ago

OK so there is a major renovation underway but this no way detracts from the beauty and tranquility of the church. History oozes from every pore. The wonderful crypt area with its exposed sections of Roman pavement is also a treat and the whole building encapsulates the entire history of London over the last 2000 years. If you are visiting... More 

Helpful?
Thank Andy S
Jacksonville, Florida
Level Contributor
25 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 11, 2016

After you've been dazzled by St Paul's Cathedral, hunt down some of Christopher Wren's other masterpieces. Be sure to stand at a distance and check out the spire of St. Bride's---looks like a wedding cake. Beautiful, smaller Wren treasure.

Helpful?
Thank Davann123
Camberley, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
170 reviews
45 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 52 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 1, 2016

A haven of peace and quiet with a long history off Fleet Street. Unfortunately full of scaffolding inside when we visited recently but we were lucky to hear the organist practice. Crypts open still. Should be even more worthy of a visit when renovation is completed. Lots of history here.

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Thank Berdy2014
Oklahoma City
Level Contributor
100 reviews
53 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 30, 2016

At the time of my visit St. Bride's was going through a major restoration, still the beauty of the church, designed by Sir Christopher Wren shone through. The crypt had a series of displays showing stone work from various periods--this site has been in use for centuries, even Roman stone work is present. The steeple is said to be the... More 

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Thank Sheila B
Colorado
Level Contributor
438 reviews
204 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 153 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 20, 2016

The present building was rebuilt after it was destroyed by the Blitz in WWII. The basement, however, is a different story. It shows some Roman pavement from the Roman Times, the remains of an Anglo Saxon chapel, and the walls from the Norman church. King John held a parliament here and Samuel Pepys was baptized here, since it was his... More 

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Thank Owenthomas
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Level Contributor
179 reviews
74 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 114 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 17, 2016

The origin of tiered wedding cakes, as a local baker made a fortune via emulating it's tiered structure in pastry, Christoper Wren's steeple on St. Bride (it's not St. "Bride's") is worth admiring on its own. It's his tallest and, in my opinion, most elegant steeple. It's a pretty church inside, too. Destroyed by bombing during the Blitz in WWII,... More 

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Thank Abbotsbury92
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
63 reviews
27 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 24, 2016

What a magnificent Church. Wonderful architecture with tower designed by Wren. Inside it has been beautifully restored. The literary associations with this Fleet Street Church are amazing. There is a side altar in memory of missing journalists or those who have died in war zones. In the crypt there is a very good exhibition of the history of the site... More 

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Thank Rampit
Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
13 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 9, 2016

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 

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Thank Carol K
Wotton-under-Edge
Level Contributor
74 reviews
25 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 31 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 

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Thank PaulWuE
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
43 reviews
19 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 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 

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Thank Talented49

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From its ancient past as a Roman trading outpost to its 21st century status as the wealthiest square mile in the world, the financial district known simply as “The City” is one of London's most historic and fascinating neighborhoods. Here high rise office towers such as Norman Foster’s Gherkin mingle with Roman ruins and architectural marvels from virtually every era in between, including Christopher Wren's glorious St.Paul's Cathedral, and John Soane's dauntingly classicist Bank of England. This neighborhood is also home to some of the finest restaurants and plushest hotels in Europe, in addition to an assortment of watering holes, upscale shops, and Tube stations. During the week, the City is abuzz with white collar workers going about their business; the weekend sees this area turn into a quiet haven for sightseers.
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