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St Stephen Walbrook
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Wren's most remarkable parish church was built in 1672-80, with the steeple added in 1713-17. The exterior is to a large extent hidden behind the Mansion House and is markedly plain. Only the steeple deserves notice. To the south of the tower a door beneath a garlanded oval window leads up a flight of steps into a west apse, which is screened from the interior proper by a substantial door-case.

St Stephen Walbrook

Much of the exterior of St Stephen Walbrook is hidden, but the steeple stands out.


Wren's plan is formed by the positioning of 16 Corinthian columns of equal height. On the west side, eight of them appear to form a groined nave, flanked by flat-ceilinged inner aisles and narrower outer aisles. But if the first four columns abreast are discounted, the remaining 12 form a centralizing plan in four groups of three in the corners of the square, over which presides a coffered dome of wood and plaster. The groups of columns define an inner square, which is emphasized by the entablature they carry, but they also form a Greek cross out of the transepts, the nave and the chancel. The inner square becomes an octagon by the device of throwing arches across the corners as well as over the arms of the Greek cross, and on these eight arches the dome and its lantern rest. To set against these centralizing features, the arched east window almost fills the chancel wall and there is a substantial reredos at the east end. In recent years, this reredos has lost its role because a central altar has been placed under the dome. This attar was made by Henry Moore of light-coloured marble, is 2.4 metres (8 feet) wide and weighs 8. 5 tons. Light-coloured benches curve round it. It is incongruous in Wren's church, which needs its altar in front of the reredos; however much Wren's ground-plans set up a tension between longitudinal and centralizing features, the east end was ultimately the focus. The body of the church was intended for high box-pews; without them, the high bases of the columns have lost their purpose.

St Stephen Walbrook

Wren's coffered dome sits on eight arches, which are supported by groups of Corinthian columns.


St Stephen Walbrook

The tester of the fine pulpit was made by Thomas Creecher and William Newman when Wren's church was built in the late 17th century.


Robert Potter carried out a major restoration in 1978-87, which has left the church in a remarkably fine condition. Thomas Creecher made the reredos, and William Newman was reponsible for the carving. They also worked together on the fine pulpit and its tester, and Newman carved the font-cover. The organ above the south door was built by William Hill in 1906, but has a case of 1765. One well-known individual who has no memorial here, despite being buried in the north aisle, is Sir John Vanbrugh, the architect of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. An epitaph was suggested for him: 'Lie heavy on him, Earth! for he/Laid many a heavy load on thee'.

St Stephen Walbrook

In Wren's church the reredos was the most significant furnishing, but the interior now centres on Henry Moore's substantial marble altar.



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