- St Olave Hart Street
name = St. Olave Hart Street
caption = Photo of St. Olave Hart Street
Church of England, earlier Roman Catholic
address = Hart Street,
City of London
St Olave Hart Street is an
Anglicanchurch in the City of London, located on Hart Street near Fenchurch Street railway station.
The church is one of the smallest in the City and is one of only a handful of medieval City churches that escaped the
Great Fire of Londonin 1666. It is dedicated to the patron saint of Norway, King Olaf II of Norway, who fought alongside the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelred the Unreadyagainst the Danes in the Battle of London Bridgein 1014. He was canonised after his death and the church of St Olave's was built apparently on the site of the battle. The Norwegian connection was reinforced during the Second World Warwhen King Haakon VII of Norwayworshipped there while in exile.
The church is first recorded in the
13th centuryas "St Olave-towards-the-Tower", a stone building replacing the earlier (presumably wooden) construction [“The Churches of the City of London” Reynolds,H.: London, Bodley Head, 1922] . The present building dates from around 1450. It survived the Great Fire thanks to the efforts of Sir William Penn, the father of the more famous Penn who founded Pennsylvania. However, it was gutted in 1941during the Blitz ["The Old Churches of London" Cobb,G: London, Batsford, 1942] . and was restored in 1954, with King Haakon returning to preside over the rededication ceremony.
St Olave's has a modest exterior in the Perpendicular Gothic style [“The City of London Churches” Betjeman,J Andover, Pikin, 1967 ISBN 0853721122] with a somewhat squat square tower of stone and brick, the latter added in
1732. It is deservedly famous for the macabre 1658entrance arch to the churchyard, which is decorated with grinning skulls [ "London:the City Churches” Pevsner,N/Bradley,S New Haven, Yale, 1998 ISBN 0300096550] . The novelist Charles Dickenswas so taken with this that he included the church in his "Uncommon Traveller", renaming it "St Ghastly Grim".
The church was a favourite of the diarist
Samuel Pepys, who worked in the nearby Navy Office and worshipped regularly at St Olave's. He referred to it affectionately in his diary as "our own church" ["Pepys: the unequalled self" Tomalin,C: London, Viking, 2002 ISBN 0670885681] and both he and his wife are buried there, in the nave. John Betjemandescribed St Olaves with words to the effect that it was a country church set in the bustling setting of Seething Lane; a description with which many who know the church, will surely agree.
The interior of St Olave's only partially survived the wartime bombing; much of it dates from the restoration of the 1950s. It is nearly square, with three bays separated by columns of Purbeck limestone supporting pointed arches. The roof is a simple oak structure with bosses. Most of the church fittings are modern, but there are some significant survivals, such as the monument to Elizabeth Pepys ["The Visitors Guide to the City of London Churches" Tucker,T: London, Friends of the City Churches, 2006 ISBN 0955394503] and the pulpit, said to be the work of
Perhaps the oddest "person" said to be buried here is the "Pantomime character" Mother Goose. Church documents record her interment on September 14, 1586. A plaque on the outside commemorates the event. The churchyard is also said to contain the grave of one Mary Ramsay, popularly believed to be the woman who brought the Black Death to London in the 17th Century. [ [http://www.cromwellcollection.org.uk/cgi-bin/cambscoll/history.pl?term=Ramsey&category=village&exact=exact Cambridgeshire Collection - History On The Net ] ]
The church tower contains 8 bells. These are rung by the
University of London Society of Change Ringers.
Notable people associated with the church
Samuel Pepys, diarist: "buried 1703"
Haakon VII of Norway: "worshipped here 1940- 1945"
List of churches and cathedrals of London
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