Wren 300, a city full of people

Parish of St Bride

Parish of
St Bride

Located on the western boundary of the City of London outside the City walls, stretching north and south of Fleet Street, the parish of St Bride is dedicated to the Irish saint, St Brigid of Kildare.

The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed most of the medieval church, leaving only the tower and porch standing. St Bride’s was one of the first eleven churches to be rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren.

Church Rebuilding

In order to be included as one of the first City churches in the programme of rebuilding, St Bride’s had to provide an upfront payment to the City corporation. The parish managed to raise the £500 needed within just one month in August 1671. It would have taken a skilled tradesman nineteen years to earn the same amount. However, a tax on coal was used to raise money to cover the costs of City churches rebuilding, and so the loan was repaid. The total cost of St Bride’s was £15,163 1s 10½ d, over £1.5m today.

Image: The Elevation or Prospect of the West end of the Steeple of St Brides in Fleet Street, 1680 © The Trustees of the British Museum

Starting work

Work began in 1672 by master masons Joshua Marshall and Samuel Fulkes. Joshua’s yard was in nearby Fetter Lane, and like his father before him, originally made elaborate stone monuments, tombs and chimneypieces. After the Fire he turned to working on buildings, including six of the City Churches. In the following ten years he acquired contracts worth a total of over £46,000 (£5 million today). On his death he left about £10,000 (£1 million), making him one of the richest men in London.

Contractors and crafts

The team who worked at St Bride also included the master carpenter John Longland, the joiners William Cleere and William Emmett and the plumbers (lead workers), Abraham and Burhill Goodwin. The local joiner William Grey – who lived in Shoe Lane – constructed the pulpit, pews and galleries and also did much work at St Martin Ludgate.

Wren chose the finest craftspeople with a wide range of different trades and skills. The highly skilled master masons Joshua Marshall and Samuel Fulkes worked together on the church, and Samuel on the steeple. While Joshua’s house and stone yard were nearby in Fetter Lane, most of the contractors engaged were not local to the area, although they may have engaged many men who were. Carpenter John Longland (c.1640 – 1706) worked on fifteen of the City Churches, and spent over thirty years as the Master Carpenter at St Paul’s Cathedral until his death. Joiner William Cleere did more work on the City Churches than any of his colleagues. Father and son plumbers Burhill and Abraham Goodwin supplied lead items to the church. Abraham not only worked on St Bride’s but was married within its walls and buried in the churchyard.

St Bride's Church, Fleet Street from the West, 1753 - London Metropolitan Archive

Did any women work on the project?

Yes, although it was unusual. Married couples sometimes worked together, and widows of citizens were allowed to remain trading. Hannah Brace, for example, continued her husband John’s glazing business after he died in 1674. She was paid £72 17s 10d (£8,293 today) ‘for glazing 30 lights (windows) Ovall, Round and Square’, and six casement (opening) windows. The Braces lived in the neighbouring parish of St Andrew, Holborn, where their children were baptised, and were also involved in residential developments in Bloomsbury. The inventory of John Brace listed his property and possessions at his house in Holborn, which included mathematical instruments that were used in his business. After his death, Hannah married the glazier Ralph Neile in 1675, thereby uniting their two businesses. Other glazier couples who worked on the City Churches included Sarah and Samuel Rainger, and Elizabeth and George Peowrie.

St Bride’s today

While the first service in St Bride’s was held in December 1675, the tower wasn’t completed until 1678, and the spectacular steeple added between 1701 and 1703.

Incendiary bombs on the night of 29th December 1940 during World War II left the church in ruins. After a programme of reconstruction to Wren’s original design, it re-opened in 1957.

Find out more about the history of St Bride’s Church.


Local churches were the focal point of sixteenth-century City life. Weekly worship and all the milestones of parishioners’ lives took place here: christenings, marriages and funerals. Many churches were lost in the Great Fire.

Read the stories of four that either survived or succumbed to the flames, and how they reemerged from the ruins.

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