Bridge Ward Club
President Alderman Sir Alan Yarrow
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THE CHURCH OF ST MAGNUS THE MARTYR
The Church was founded in the 3rd century and was first mentioned in the Westminster Domesday chartulary in 1067. By the 15th century the fabric of the building was in a dreadful state and priests were spending too much time fishing in the Thames and frequenting the taverns.
The patronage of St Magnus was held between the two Abbeys of Westminster and Bermondsey until the Dissolution of the churches and monasteries in 1538 by Henry VIII. In 1553 Queen Mary granted the living of the church jointly to the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In 1623 the ageing fabric was repaired and then in 1666 the church was completely destroyed by the Great Fire. The present structure was built on the foundations of the old church and designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren between 1671 and 1687 at a cost of £9,576. The design of the tower which was added in 1703 is said to have been inspired by St Charles Borrego Church in Antwerp. The spire is one of Wren's finest, as he considered that St Magnus was in such a prime position, being the first church to be encountered on approaching the City from across the bridge.
In 1759 the widening of the old London Bridge was being undertaken and it was necessary to remove the vestries at the west end of St Magnus. An archway was formed beneath the tower in order that the east footway of the bridge could pass under it.
By 1782 the noise of Billingsgate Market was becoming unbearable during the services inside the church, so that the long north windows facing Lower Thames Street were filled in, leaving circular ones higher up in their place.
St Magnus is well worth a visit, and a visitor will find it to be light and spacious, having a nave and two aisles separated by fluted ionic columns, supporting an entablature, which carries a vaulted ceiling. The whole interior is enriched by white and gold decor and the dark stained woodwork of the reredos, pews, vestibule and gallery housing the organ, contrasts sharply with the bright background.
The reredos, surmounted by the Rood, is of exceptional merit. High up in the centre is a circular panel bearing a painting of the dove of peace, supported by angels, and beneath is a pelican with wings outstretched, which according to legend feeds its young with its own blood by plucking at its own breast. This symbolises Christ giving his life for us in the Holy Sacrament at the altar. Below, on either side, are the painted figures of Moses and his brother Aaron.
The altar rails date from 1683 and are choice examples of Sussex wrought ironwork from those days. In the south aisle stands the font, which is dated from the same year. The pulpit has fine wrought iron balustrades to the steps and the first swell box organ, invented by Jordan in 1716, was donated to the Church by Sir Charles Duncombe. When Sir Charles was an apprentice in his youth he was late for work one day and was subsequently chastised by his employer. He vowed that should he ever become well known and wealthy he would place a clock on St Magnus Church so that other apprentices would not suffer the same fate and this he did in 1709, on becoming Lord Mayor.
Three Lord Mayors and other City dignitaries are buried in the Church, and also the famous Henry Yevele, the King's Mason and Miles Coverdale, author of the first English version of The Bible.