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Now that we were out of the office and back on the ghost trail, Looking For Ghosts returned to the City to visit a location we had heard some fairly creepy stories about; St James Garlickhythe.

This picturesque church, nicknamed “Wren’s Lantern”, is tucked away on Garlick Hill by Upper Thames Street and was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in 1683 after the original building was destroyed by the great fire. Thinking about it, the Great Fire of London was probably the best thing that ever happened to Christopher Wren, whose office rebuilt no fewer than 50 parish churches after the tragedy. Wonder how much he got for all of that? Quite a lot, we’re willing to wager. Not that we’re suggesting that it was in his best interests to start the fire in the first place or anything. It just seems pretty convenient.

St James Garlickhythe - just one of many churches Christopher Wren rebuilt after he definitely did NOT set London on fire.

Anyway, the church itself hides a gruesome tale – quite literally. In 1855, the mummified remains of a mystery gentleman, affectionately nicknamed Jimmy Garlick,  were found in the vaults of the church and were put on public display in a glass cabinet by the altar. Nothing unusual about this; it is only natural that upon discovering a corpse you want to share it with as many people as possible.
 

Recent research has revealed the mummy is likely to date back to the 17th Century and could be one of the early Mayors of London, who were often buried here. 

Several things have disturbed Jimmy’s rest over the years, including the church being hit by a bomb during the Blitz. After such events his spirit is often seen and heard on the site, possibly with his arms outsretched in front of him, making a low groaning sound as he walks. We just don’t know. 

Somewhere in this tower now lie Jimmy's remains...

Many believe that the ghost of Jimmy Garlick is also responsible for items being moved around or mysteriously vanishing. Not surprised he’s so peeved; mummies are known to get easily wound up. Sorry. 

Despite watching The Mummy Returns 17 times in preparation for our visit, the Looking For Ghosts team failed to spot Jimmy or his remains which have, sadly, been moved into the tower and out of public view.

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As Looking For Ghosts continued to search for the paranormal amongst London’s concealed past, we arrived at  St Mary-le-Bow. It is said that you can only truly be considered cockney if you were born within earshot of the churches’ chimes; the Bow Bells. It is also, along with a few other London churches, immortalised in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons. However, few people are aware that this famous church once suffered a deadly curse…

Will this great tower fall once again?

In the 11th and 12th centuries black masses were held at the site, leading many locals to believe it had become cursed. In 1091, the roof blew off killing a considerable number of local residents, whilst more people were crushed to death in 1271 as the tower collapsed into the street below.   

The church was also nearly destroyed in 1196 when the Archbishop of Canterbury used fire to smoke out murderous tax-dodger William Fitzobert who had been hiding out in the tower. How that plan went wrong we’ll never know.

St Mary’s houses many a grim tale, as Lawrence Duckett was murdered within the building at the end of the 13th Century. Consequently 17 men were hanged (and one woman burned to death) for this crime.   

Almost inevitably St Mary-le-Bow was destroyed by the Great Fire of London and was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in 1673 , when many people say the curse was lifted. Nice one, Chris!   

 Fire, murder, toppling towers; whilst there can be no argument that St Mary’s is the unluckiest church in the world, is it the result of some ancient hex? Or just poor infrastructure? 

Despite us pressing our ears up against the door of the crypt, we still didn’t experience  any bloody ghosts. Probably because the crypt, which for centuries amassed decaying corpses, ironically houses a fashionable vegetarian restaurant these days.    

Now that we were suitably prepared, it was time for the Looking For Ghosts team to embark on our first hunt. We figured that a promising starting point would be the City of London itself, known as the “Square Mile”, whose grim and lurid past surely means that thousands of ghosts from centuries past spill out of every church, crypt and alleyway hidden away among the capital’s financial district. 

The oldest Christian church in Britain? Possibly. Haunted? No.

With this in mind we stumbled across St Peter upon Cornhill, an ancient church curiously nestled between modern city buildings and designer boutiques, and soon discovered it boasts an interesting history. 

According to an inscription in the churchyard, it is the oldest Christian church in Britain, with the original site founded by King Lucius in 187 AD.

Even if this is not the case (several churches in the UK have stated similar claims) the building, re-designed by Christopher Wren in 1687 after the original building was destroyed by the great fire, houses a more provocative tale. 

The Cornhill Devils - Picture © Knowledge of London. Visit the excellent knowledgeoflondon.com, well worth a look for similar quirky London tales.

In the nineteenth century, a vicar at this church noticed that plans for a building next door encroached on to church territory by a slight margin.

A bitter legal dispute ensued, with the architect forced to re-draw his plans. By way of revenge, he added three sinister stone gargoyles to the building to sneer down upon the churchgoers below.

The intimidating devil looming over the church door is said to be created in the image of the fastidious vicar (who by all accounts got just what he deserved for being such a kill-joy). 

Verdict: whilst this building is of some historical significance (and the gargoyles are an unsettling sight on a gloomy Sunday afternoon in a largely deserted city), it’s no more haunted than your average branch of HMV. Ghost count so far stands at a pitiful zero. But we shall continue! 

Looking For Ghosts

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