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St Sepulchre-without-Newgate
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Tower of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church.jpg
LocationLondon, EC1
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationChurch of England
Previous denominationRoman Catholic
ChurchmanshipLow Church Evangelical
StatusParish church
Founded12th century
DedicationEdmund the Martyr
Functional statusActive
Heritage designationGrade I listed building
StyleGothic (tower)[1]
Years built15th century (rebuilt)
Completed1670 (reopened)[2]
Number of towers1
Priest in chargeDavid 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.[3]


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.[2] 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[4] but was gutted by the Great Fire of London in 1666,[5] which left only the outer walls, the tower and the porch standing.[6] 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.

The interior of the church is a wide, roomy space with a coffered ceiling[7] installed in 1834. The Vicars' old residence has recently been renovated into a modern living quarter.

The interior of St Sepulchre

During the reign of Mary I in 1555, St Sepulchre's vicar, John Rogers, was burned as a heretic.

The bell

St Sepulchre is named in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons as the "bells of Old Bailey".[8] 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.[9] 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":[9][1]

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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.[1][10]

Musicians' Chapel

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.[11] 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.

Military link

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.[12] 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.[13]

Notable people associated with the church


The organ

The north aisle is dominated by a splendid organ built by Renatus Harris in 1670.[15] 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

See also

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  1. ^ a b c Piper, David; Jervis, Fionnuala. The Companion Guide to London. p. cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}
  2. ^ a b "NEWGATE: Conservation Area Character Summary" (PDF). Corporation of London. 1999.
  3. ^ "Newgate Street Conservation Area [No. 6]". City of London Corporation.
  4. ^ "The City Churches" Tabor, M. p127:London; The Swarthmore Press Ltd; 1917
  5. ^ Latham, Robert, ed. (1985). Samuel Pepys - The Shorter Pepys. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 484. ISBN 0-14-009418-0.
  6. ^ Cobb, G (1942). The Old Churches of London. London: Batsford.
  7. ^ "London:the City Churches" Pevsner, N / Bradley, S New Haven, Yale, 1998 ISBN 0-300-09655-0
  8. ^ "Our Community — Bells".
  9. ^ a b St. Sepulchre's and its neighbourhood. Old and New London, Volume 2. Cassell, Petter & Galpin (courtesy of British History Online). 1878. pp. 447–491.
  10. ^ "London's secret sights: 14 odd attractions you never knew were there". The Daily Telegraph.
  11. ^ "The London Encyclopaedia" Hibbert,C;Weinreb,D;Keay,J: London, Pan Macmillan, 1983 (rev 1993,2008) ISBN 978-1-4050-4924-5
  12. ^ "The Visitors Guide to the City of London Churches" Tucker,T: London, Friends of the City Churches, 2006 ISBN 0-9553945-0-3
  13. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1064640)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
  14. ^ "The John Smith Window". St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
  15. ^ Pearce,C.W. "Notes on Old City Churches: their organs, organists and musical associations" London, Winthrop Rogers Ltd 1909

External links

Coordinates: 51°31′0.07″N 0°6′8.47″W / 51.5166861°N 0.1023528°W / 51.5166861; -0.1023528

2 Annotations

Pedro  •  Link

St Sepulchre-Without-New-Gate

There is no saint called "Sepulchre". The church which stood on this site was originally dedicated to St. Edmund the Martyr - King of East Anglia. At the time of the Crusades the church was known as "St. Edmund and the Holy Sepulchre" and eventually "St. Sepulchre" - after the Holy Sepulchre of Christ in Jerusalem.

St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate is the largest church in the City of London. The tower and outer walls were built around 1450. Badly damaged in the Great Fire of 1666, the church was rebuilt by Wren's masons in 1670-71. The ashes of Sir Henry Wood, founder of the Promenade Concerts - the longest running continuous series of orchestral concerts in the world - are interred in the Musicians' Chapel where now can be found the Musicians' Book of Remembrance containing the names of over two thousand professional musicians.
On the south wall there is a stained glass window commemorating Captain John Smith, the first Governor of the state of Virginia, USA, whose exploits included sailing to America in "the little ships" in 1607, where he was captured by Indians and freed by Princess Pocahontas. Smith died in 1631 and is buried in the south aisle. St. Sepulchre's was the first London home of the School of English Church Music - now the RSCM - and the historic tower holds the twelve bells of the Old Bailey made famous by the nursery rhyme 'Oranges and Lemons'.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

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.…

St Sepulchre is south-center (SW of West Smithfield) on this 1746 map…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.