St. Mary-le-Bow is an
historic church in the City of London, off Cheapside.
According to tradition, a true Cockney
must be born within earshot of the sound of
the church's bells.
of the bells of St. Mary's are credited with having persuaded
Dick Whittington to turn back from
Highgate and remain
in London to become Lord Mayor.
Traditionally, distances by road from London
have been measured from the London Stone, or the "Standard" in Cornhill, but, on the
road from London to Lewes, the mileage
is taken from the church door of St. Mary le Bow.
emphasize the difference, mileposts along the way are marked with a
cast-iron depiction of a bow and four bells.
The church is also immortalised in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons
Archaeological evidence indicates that a church existed on this
site in Saxon
period England. A medieval
version of the church had been destroyed in 1091 by one of the
earliest recorded (and one of the most violent) tornadoes
in Britain, the London Tornado of 1091
Norman period, a church known as “St Mary de Arcubus” was built and
was famed for its two arches (“bows”) of stone. From at least the 13th
century, the church was a peculier of the
Canterbury and the seat of the Court of Arches, to which it gave the
name. The church with its steeple had been a
landmark of London and the “Bow bells”, which could be heard as far
away as Hackney
Marshes, were once used to signal a curfew in the City of
London. This building burned in the Great Fire of
London of 1666.
The current building was built to the designs of Christopher Wren
, 1671-1673, with the
223-foot steeple completed 1680. The mason-contractor was Thomas
Cartwright, one of the leading London mason-contractors and carvers
of his generation.
In 1914, a
stone from the crypt of St Mary-le-Bow church was placed in
York, in commemoration of the fact that King William III granted the vestry of
Trinity Church the same privileges as St Mary-le-Bow.
recording of the Bow Bells made in 1926 has been used by the
BBC World Service
as an interval
signal for the English language broadcasts since the early 1940s.
It is still used today preceding some English broadcasts.
Much of the current building was destroyed by a German
bomb during the London Blitz
on May 10, 1941, during which fire
the bells crashed to the ground. Restoration under the direction of
Laurence King was begun in 1956 (with internal fittings made by
Faith-Craft, part of the Society of
) and the bells rang again only in 1961 to produce a
new generation of Cockneys
. The church was
formally reconsecrated in 1964 and was designated a Grade I listed building
on 4 January
churchyard is a statue of Captain John Smith, founder of Virginia and former parishioner of this church.
Mary-le-Bow ministers to the financial industry and livery companies of the City of London.
There is a memorial in the church to the
first Governor in Australia, Arthur
, who was born nearby. Through this connection the
Rector of St Mary le Bow is the Chaplain
Image:Bow Churchyard London.jpg|West
Mary-le-Bow Crypt.jpg|The crypt chapelImage:Milepost Nutley.jpg|A
"Bow Bells" milepost on the London to Lewes roadFile:Bust of Arthur
Phillip.JPG|Bust of Arthur
- Howard Colvin, Biographical
Dictionary of British Architects
- Michael Byrne and George R.Bush (eds), St Mary-le-Bow: A
History (Privately published, 2007).