When you combine coffee, history, and one of the oldest parts of London, you end up with a place that’s well worth a visit, if only for a little while. The church of St Mary Woolnoth is the kind of place that you stumble upon quite by accident, on your way to somewhere else, only to find yourself staying much longer than previously planned…
St Mary Woolnoth, A History
The site where St Mary Woolnoth’s church now sits has been used as a religious site of worship for well over 2000 years. The remains of both Pagan and Roman religious buildings have been discovered during archaeological digs, as well as the evidence of some kind of wooden Anglo-Saxon structure. In the past, it was quite common for Christian buildings to be built on the site of pagan worship places, and the Sacré-Coeur in Paris is probably the most famous example.
The Grade I listed building that you can see (and visit) today has stood in situ since its construction in the early 1700s and is most likely the third Christian church on site. The first Norman built church was replaced by a second church at some point during the middle ages. Sadly, much of this second church was destroyed during the Great Fire of London. Despite efforts from Sir Christopher Wren, among others, to restore the church, it proved too structurally unsound and so was eventually demolished.
St Mary Woolnoth’s (whose full name and dedication is Saint Mary of the Nativity) is constructed in the English Baroque style, and much like the Tardis, is actually much larger on the inside than it first appears from the exterior. The name ‘Woolnoth’ was most likely a patron of a Norman church that had previously stood on site.
In more recent times, the church has featured in T.S. Elliot’s poem, “The Wasteland”. You can also find reference to the church in poet John Betjeman’s book, The City of London Churches. Acclaimed poet John Betjeman wrote plenty of London guides, and you can now find his final resting place in the graveyard of the once lost, forgotten and buried under the sand church of St Enodoc in Cornwall.
Independent Coffee Shop, St Mary Woolnoth
If you’re looking to escape the crowds of central London, then you’ve come to the right place. Quiet and secluded, you’ll find the small coffee shop of the ‘independent coffee corner’ in the entryway to the church. Head up the stairs and towards the entrance of the church. Pop inside and you’ll find an overflowing counter with cookies, cakes and plenty of teas and coffees. Quick tip: if you do want to visit the welcoming coffee shop, just make sure to wrap up warm in the winter!