St Olave Hart Street

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name = St. Olave Hart Street
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denomination = Church of England, earlier Roman Catholic
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address = Hart Street, City of London
country = United Kingdom
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St Olave Hart Street is an Anglican church 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 London in 1666. It is dedicated to the patron saint of Norway, King Olaf II of Norway, who fought alongside the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelred the Unready against the Danes in the Battle of London Bridge in 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 War when King Haakon VII of Norway worshipped there while in exile.

The church is first recorded in the 13th century as "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 1941 during 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 1658 entrance 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 Dickens was 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 Betjeman described 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 Grinling Gibbons.

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. [ [ 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"
* King Haakon VII of Norway: "worshipped here 1940-1945"


* List of churches and cathedrals of London

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • (St.) Olave Hart Street —    On the south side of Hart Street at the north west corner of Seething Lane (P.O. Directory). In Tower Ward. Parish extends into Aldgate Ward.    First mention found in records : Parish of St. Olave towards the Tower (1200 20) (Anc. Deeds, A.… …   Dictionary of London

  • Hart Street —    1) East from Newgate to Snow Hill, without Newgate (Hatton, 1708).    See Hart Row Street.    2) East out of Mark Lane to Seething Lane and Crutched Friars (P.O. Directory).    Earliest mention: Hartstreate (Lond. I. p.m. 9 Eliz. 1551, II. 66) …   Dictionary of London

  • St Alban, Wood Street — St. Alban, Wood Street The tower of St. Alban s Country England Denomination Roman Catholic, Anglican St Alban s was a church in Wood Street, City of London. It …   Wikipedia

  • New Park Street Chapel — New Park Street Chapel, ca. 1854 Country United Kingdom Denomination Reformed Baptist …   Wikipedia

  • New London Street —    North out of Hart Street, at No.10, to London Street (P.O. Directory). In Tower Ward.    First mention: Horwood, 1799. In Horwood the name is given to London Street as well.    Former names of courts occupying the site: Crosseley s Court (O.… …   Dictionary of London

  • (St.) Olave at Crutched Friars —    See St. Olave Hart Street …   Dictionary of London

  • (St.) Olave by the Tower or versus Turrim —    See St. Olave Hart Street …   Dictionary of London

  • (St.) Olave near Martelane —    See St. Olave Hart Street …   Dictionary of London

  • (St.) Olave towards Alegate —    See St. Olave Hart Street …   Dictionary of London

  • (St.) Olave by London Bridge —    Qy. = Olave (St.) Hart Street or Olave (St.) Southwark …   Dictionary of London

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