St Mary's Abchurch
A church stood on this site in the 12th century but in the Great Fire of 1666 it was burnt down. In 1681 work was begun on the present building, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and it was completed in 1686. The church has changed very little in appearance since then. The dome painting was added in 1708. It depicts the worship of heaven, with, in the centre the Divine Name in Hebrew characters. The chief glory of the church is the magnificent reredos with its limewood carvings by Grinling Gibbons is unique in that it is not only the largest but the only authenticated work of his in any City church (St Paul’s Cathedral excepted). The gilded ‘Pelican in her piety’ appears both on the reredos and in the original copper weathervane, now above the north door. This emblem is doubly appropriate as being the badge of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, the patrons of the living, and representing Christ, who feeds us with his own Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The additional name "Abchurch" may be a variant of "Upchurch", referring to its position on comparatively high ground. The ceiling of the church takes the form of a dome, pierced by four windows. It springs from four plain brick walls, has no external thrusts and measures more than forty feet across. It was painted with the present decorative scheme in 1708, when the whole church went under repair and beautification. A bomb hit the church in September 1940 during the London Blitz. The greatest damage was to the dome. W. Godfrey Allen repaired the church between 1948–1953. The dome was restored by E. W. Tristan, and work on it was completed after his death in 1952 by the artist Walter Hoyle. Many sources describe the reredos as having been shattered into many pieces by the bombing and then carefully restored. In fact it was removed from the church by order of the church wardens, and kept in a place of safety for the duration of the war. The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.The church was without an organ until 1822, when public subscription allowed one to be built by J.C. Bishop. This sustained serious bomb damage during the Second World War and a new organ was made by N. P. Mander in the 1950s, using the 1717 organ casing once belonging to All Hallows, Bread Street. Grand altar-piece is by Grinling Gibbons. 4 April 1648 – 3 August 1721.