|Church of the Holy Sepulchre|
|Denomination||Church of England|
|Churchmanship||Low Church Evangelical|
|Dedication||Edmund the Martyr|
|Heritage designation||Grade I listed building|
|Years built||15th century (rebuilt)|
|Number of towers||1|
|Priest in charge||David Ingall|
St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Holborn), is an Anglican church in the City of London. It is located on Holborn Viaduct, almost opposite the Old Bailey. In medieval times it stood just outside ("without") the now-demolished old city wall, near the Newgate. It has been a living of St John's College, Oxford, since 1622 and is part of the area designated the "Newgate Street Conservation Area" (No. 6) by the City of London Corporation.
The original Saxon church on the site was dedicated to St Edmund the King and Martyr. In 1137 it was given to the Priory of St Bartholomew. During the Crusades in the 12th century the church was renamed St Edmund and the Holy Sepulchre, in reference to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, by soldiers who passed by the church on the way to the Holy Lands. The name eventually became contracted to St Sepulchre.
The church is today the largest parish church in the City. It was completely rebuilt in the 15th century but was gutted by the Great Fire of London in 1666, which left only the outer walls, the tower and the porch standing. Modified in the 18th century, the church underwent extensive restoration in 1878. It narrowly avoided destruction in the Second World War, although the 18th-century watch-house in its churchyard (erected to deter grave-robbers) was destroyed and had to be rebuilt.
St Sepulchre is named in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons as the "bells of Old Bailey". In 1605, London merchant tailor Mr. John Dowe paid the parish £50 to buy a handbell on the condition that it would be rung to mark the execution of a prisoner at the nearby gallows at Newgate. This handbell, known as the Execution Bell, now resides in a glass case to the south of the nave. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the clerk of St Sepulchre's was responsible for ringing a handbell outside the condemned man's cell in Newgate Prison the night before his execution and announcing the news by repeating the following "wholesome advice":
All you that in the condemned hold do lie,
Prepare you, for to-morrow you shall die;
Watch all, and pray, the hour is drawing near
That you before the Almighty must appear;
Examine well yourselves, in time repent,
That you may not to eternal flames be sent.
And when St Sepulchre's bell to-morrow tolls,
The Lord above have mercy on your souls.
Past twelve o'clock!
Given its proximity to both Newgate Prison and the Old Bailey, the bells in its tower, in addition to the usual functions of marking time, were rung to announce executions. On the day of the execution, the bells were tolled as the condemned were led to Tyburn.
In the north aisle of the church is the Musicians' Chapel. This Chapel (formerly a chapel dedicated to Stephen Harding) was dedicated The Musicians' Chapel by Dr W.R. Matthews, Dean of St Paul's, on 2 January 1955 in the presence of many distinguished musicians including an orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent and the BBC Singers. The ashes of the conductor Sir Henry Wood, C.H., founder of the Promenade Concerts, who learnt to play the organ at the church as a boy, had been interred in the Chapel a decade earlier. There are four windows commemorating Sir Henry Wood, John Ireland, the singer Dame Nellie Melba, Walter Carroll respectively. The Chapel contains the Musicians' Book of Remembrance and both the Chapel and the Book of Remembrance are maintained by the Friends of the Musicians' Chapel. A Service of Thanksgiving for those named in the Book of Remembrance is held at the church each year as well as a Requiem close to All Souls' Day. Many concerts and memorial events for musicians have been held in the church over the years. In 2017 the Rector caused a storm in the media by ending the hiring scheme and excluding many choirs from singing and rehearsing in the church. A protest was held about this and many prominent musicians including John Rutter protested against the church decision. Attempts to mediate failed.
The south aisle of the church holds the regimental chapel of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) (merged to form the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers), and its gardens are a memorial garden to that regiment. The west end of the north aisle has various memorials connected with the City of London Rifles (the 6th Battalion London Regiment). The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.
Notable people associated with the church
- Thomas Culpeper, Tudor courtier, buried here
- Thomas Gouge, minister ejected in 1662
- Samuel Gurney, MP, erected the first drinking fountain for the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association on the railings of the church. It was restored to the original location in 1913 and remains there.
- Rev Dr Peter Mullen, commentator, author and former rector, sometime chaplain to the London Stock Exchange
- John Rogers, minister, Bible translator, and the first English Protestant martyr under Mary I of England
- Sir Anthony St Leger, Tudor judge, and his first wife Eleanor Markham, buried here
- Sir John Smith, governor of Virginia and associate of Pocahontas, buried 1631 in the south aisle. Smith is also commemorated by a window designed by Francis Skeat and installed in 1968.
- Austin Osman Spare, artist, attended the church school, now a physiotherapy centre, behind the church in Snow Hill Court
- Roger Williams (1603–1683), founder of Rhode Island
- Sir Henry Wood, conductor
- Charles Wriothesley, long-serving officer of arms at the College of Arms, buried 1562 in the middle aisle
The north aisle is dominated by a splendid organ built by Renatus Harris in 1670. The swell was added by John Byfield in c.1730. The organ was enlarged in 1817 by James Hancock and by John Gray in 1828 and 1835, and Gray and Davison in 1849, 1852 and 1855. It was rebuilt in 1932 by Harrison and Harrison. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register. It is not currently playable, and a Makin digital organ is used when required for services.
- Francis Forcer 1676–1704
- Thomas Deane 1705–1712
- Benjamin Short 1712–1760
- William Selby and Samuel Jarvis 1760–1773
- Samuel Jarvis 1773–1784
- George Cooper 1784–1799
- George Cooper 1799–1843 (son of above)
- George Cooper 1843–1876 (son of above)
- James Loaring
- Edwin Matthew Lott
- Edgar Pettman
- Frank B. Fowle ca. 1921
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- Latham, Robert, ed. (1985). Samuel Pepys - The Shorter Pepys. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 484. ISBN 0-14-009418-0.
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- "Our Community — Bells". stsepulchres.org.
- St. Sepulchre's and its neighbourhood. Old and New London, Volume 2. Cassell, Petter & Galpin (courtesy of British History Online). 1878. pp. 447–491.
- "London's secret sights: 14 odd attractions you never knew were there". The Daily Telegraph.
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- Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1064640)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
- "The John Smith Window". St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
- Pearce,C.W. "Notes on Old City Churches: their organs, organists and musical associations" London, Winthrop Rogers Ltd 1909
- St Sepulchre-without-Newgate church website