St Botolph's Aldgate

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St Botolph's Church, Aldgate, St Botolph-without-Aldgate, or just Aldgate Church, is a Church of England parish church in the City of London, standing at the junction of Houndsditch and Aldgate High Street. The current 18th-century church is made of brick with stone quoins and window casings. The tower is square with an obelisk spire.<ref name="Architecture">Template:Cite book</ref>

The ecclesiastical parish was united with that of the Church of Holy Trinity, Minories, in 1899.


The church was one of four in medieval London dedicated to St Botolph, a 7th century East Anglian saint, each of which stood by one of the gates on the eastern side of the city. The others were St Botolph's, Billingsgate (destroyed by the Great Fire and not rebuilt), St Botolph's-without-Aldersgate, and St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate.<ref name=daniell>Template:Cite book</ref>


The first written record of this church appears in 1115, when it was received by the Holy Trinity Priory (recently founded by Matilda, wife of Henry I) but the parochial foundations may very well be pre-1066.

The church was rebuilt in the 16th century and once more, in its present form between 1741 and 1744, to a design by George Dance the Elder.<ref name="Architecture"/> The exterior is of brick with projecting quoins, stone windows surrounds and a stone cornice. The tower, also of brick, has rusticated quoins, and a stone spire.<ref name=demo/> The interior of the building is divided into nave and aisles by four widely-spaced piers<ref name=pearce/> supporting a flat ceiling. There are galleries along three sides. The church is lit by two rows of windows in each side wall, one above and one below the gallery. <ref name =demo>Template:Cite book</ref> The monuments from the old building were preserved, and reinstalled in the new church.<ref name=pearce/>

The interior was redecorated by John Francis Bentley, the architect of Westminster Cathedral in the late 19th century.The church was severely bombed at intervals during the London Blitz of the Second World War and then, after its restoration by Rodney Tatchell, was much damaged by an unexplained fire in 1965, so that further restoration had to be carried out. St Botolph's was rehallowed on November 8, 1966 by the Bishop of London, in the presence of the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Sir Robert Bellinger, the Lord Mayor of London, who attended in state."<ref name="Architecture"/>

St Botolph's was often referred to as the "Church of Prostitutes" in the late Victorian period. The church is sited on an island surrounded by roadways and it was usual in these times to be suspicious of women standing on street corners. They were easy targets for the police, and to escape apprehension the prostitutes would parade around the island, now occupied by the church and Aldgate tube station.Template:Citation needed

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.


The organ by Renatus Harris was built in the early 18th century.<ref name=pearce>Template:Cite book</ref> It has recently undergone a historical restoration by the organ builders Goetze and Gwynn, and been returned to its 1744 specification using many of the original components. This organ has been described as the oldest church organ in the United Kingdom. Although there are older pipes and cases, this is the oldest collection of pipes in their original positions on their original wind chests. Because of its historic importance the organ was filmed and recorded for the documentary The Elusive English Organ.

Donated by Thomas Whiting in 1676 it was built between 1702 to 1704. It was enhanced for the new church (the current building) by Harris' son-in-law, John Byfield, in 1740. The organ was considerably enlarged several times in the 19th century and again rebuilt by Mander Organs in the 1960s. The decision to restore the instrument was taken by St Botolph’s in 2002 after which a fundraising campaign was launched. The restoration, which took took nine months, was carried out under the consultancy of Ian Bell the workshops of Goetze and Gwynn in Welbeck, Nottinghamshire. The instrument was reinstalled in May 2006.

Notable parishioners

  • Daniel Defoe was married in the church in 1683
  • Thomas Bray, founder of SPCK was rector from 1706 to 1730



External links

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