Thursday, October 26, 2023

Church of St Bartholomew-the-Less

London The Unfinished City
The entrance to the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less.

Having recently visited the Priory Church of St Bartholomew-the-Great I thought that I should make a visit to the smaller church, set within the grounds of St Bartholomew's Hospital, St Bartholomew-the-Less.

As I expected from the name this church is definitely smaller, but it still has a long and fascinating history.

London The Unfinished City
Definitely the Lesser of the two churches to St Bartholomew.

Considering the darkness that seems to have taken a hold of the interior of St Bartholomew-the Great, it was nice to enter a bright church, which seemed, at least to me, to be much more modern.

However, as it turns out, the Less is only a few years younger than the Great, having been established in around 1184.

I was thankful that it was still early in the day, so that I had the chance to explore the church without interruption. 

London The Unfinished City
Inside the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less.

After a good look around and after taking plenty of photographs I made my way out into the hospital grounds. Well, since I was there and I do work in a hospital myself it only seemed the right thing to do.

Brief History

King Henry VIII dissolved the nearby priory and other religious building, including the hospital, during the dissolution of the monasteries between 1536-1541.

London The Unfinished City
The organ inside the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less.

The current building's west wall and tower date from the 15th century, although the bells hang from a medieval bell frame which is thought to be the oldest in the City of London. Two of the three bells date from 1380 and 1420.

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Stained glass lunette windows.

A new octagonal interior was built within the shell of the medieval chapel, in 1793, by George Dance the Younger. Unfortunately, this new entirely wooden construction soon became infected with dry-rot.

Under the supervision of Thomas Hardwick this construction was replaced, in 1823. Hardwick saw to it that the timber construction was replicated in stone and added an iron ceiling. He also added to some of the detailing.

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Well worn walls.

During the Blitz of World War II the church suffered bomb damage, but was quickly repaired, following the war, allowing the church to reopen in 1951.

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The entrance at the base of the tower.

The church was designated as a Grade II* listed building in 1950.

London The Unfinished City
Vaulted ceiling, windows and pews.

On June 1, 2015, the parishes of St Bartholomew-the-Great and St Bartholomew-the-Less were dissolved and were replaced with the united benefice of Great St Bartholomew. The new parish incorporates precisely the boundary of both former parishes.

St Bartholomew-the-Great became the parish church, while St Bartholomew-the-Less became a Chapel of Ease within the parish. 

Services continue to be held at the church.

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