St Sepulchre-without-Newgate

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate
St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate

Photo of St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate

Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Holborn), is an Anglican church in the City of London. It is located on Holborn Viaduct, almost opposite the Old Bailey. In medieval times it stood just outside ("without") the now-demolished old city wall, near the Newgate.



The original Saxon church on the site was dedicated to St Edmund the King and Martyr. During the Crusades in the 12th century the church was renamed St Edmund and the Holy Sepulchre, in reference to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The name eventually became contracted to St Sepulchre.

The church is today the largest parish church in the City. It was completely rebuilt in the 15th century but was gutted by the Great Fire of London in 1666,[1] which left only the outer walls, the tower and the porch standing[2] -. Modified in the 18th century, the church underwent extensive restoration in 1878. It narrowly avoided destruction in the Second World War, although the 18th-century watch-house in its churchyard (erected to deter grave-robbers) was completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt.

The interior of the church is a wide, roomy space with a coffered ceiling[3] installed in 1834.

The interior of St Sepulchre

During the reign of Mary I in 1555, St Sepulchre's vicar, John Rogers, was burned as a heretic.

St Sepulchre is one of the "Cockney bells" of London, named in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons as the "bells of Old Bailey". Traditionally, the great bell would be rung to mark the execution of a prisoner at the nearby gallows at Newgate. The clerk of St Sepulchre's was also responsible for ringing a handbell outside the condemned man's cell in Newgate Prison to inform him of his impending execution. This handbell, known as the Execution Bell, now resides in a glass case to the south of the nave.

The church has been the official musicians' church for many years and is associated with many famous musicians. Its north aisle (formerly a chapel dedicated to Stephen Harding) is dedicated as the Musicians' Chapel, with four windows commemorating John Ireland, the singer Dame Nellie Melba, Walter Carroll and the conductor Sir Henry Wood respectively.[4] Wood, who "at the age of fourteen, learned to play the organ" at this church [1] and later became its organist, also has his ashes buried in this church.

The south aisle of the church holds the regimental chapel of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), and its gardens are a memorial garden to that regiment.[5] The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.[6]

Notable people associated with the church

Newgate Execution Bell
  • Thomas Culpeper, buried here
  • Thomas Gouge, ejected minister in 1662
  • John Rogers, minister, Bible translator, and the first English Protestant martyr under Mary I of England
  • Austin Osman Spare attended the church school, now a physiotherapy centre, behind the church in Snowhill Lane
  • Peter Mullen, current rector and conservative commentator
  • John Smith, governor of Virginia and associate of Pocahontas: buried 1631. Smith is commemorated by a handsome window designed by Francis Skeat and installed in 1968.[7]
  • Sir Henry Wood, conductor

The Vicars' old quarters has recently been renovated into a modern living quarter, and is presently occupied by three lawyers and a science teacher. Registered as The Parvis Flat, these living quarters are extremely homely and the roof-top balcony is ideal for summer entertainment.


The north aisle is dominated by a splendid organ built by Renatus Harris in 1670.[8] The swell was added by John Byfield in c.1730. The organ was enlarged in 1817 by James Hancock and by John Gray in 1828 and 1835, and Gray and Davison in 1849, 1852 and 1855. It was rebuilt in 1932 by Harrison and Harrison. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register


  • Francis Forcer 1676-1704
  • Thomas Deane 1705-1712
  • Benjamin Short 1712-1760
  • William Selby and Samuel Jarvis 1760-1773
  • Samuel Jarvis 1773-1784
  • George Cooper 1784-1799
  • George Cooper 1799-1843 (son of above)
  • George Cooper 1843-1876 (son of above)
  • James Loaring
  • Edwin Matthew Lott
  • Edgar Pettman
  • Frank B. Fowle ca. 1921

See also

  • List of churches and cathedrals of London


  1. ^ Samuel Pepys-The Shorter Pepys Latham,R(Ed) p484: Harmondsworth,1985 ISBN 0140094180
  2. ^ "The Old Churches of London" Cobb,G: London,Batsford,1942
  3. ^ "London:the City Churches” Pevsner,N/Bradley,S New Haven, Yale, 1998 ISBN 0300096550
  4. ^ "The London Encyclopaedia" Hibbert,C;Weinreb,D;Keay,J: London, Pan Macmillan, 1983 (rev 1993,2008) ISBN 978-1-4050-4924-5
  5. ^ "The Visitors Guide to the City of London Churches" Tucker,T: London, Friends of the City Churches, 2006 ISBN 0955394503
  6. ^ Details from listed building database (199516) . Images of England. English Heritage. accessed 23 January 2009
  7. ^ "The John Smith Window". St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate. Retrieved 22 December 2010. 
  8. ^ Pearce,C.W. “Notes on Old City Churches: their organs, organists and musical associations” London, Winthrop Rogers Ltd 1909

External links

Coordinates: 51°31′0.07″N 0°6′8.47″W / 51.5166861°N 0.1023528°W / 51.5166861; -0.1023528

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