Abchurch Lane runs north-south from Lombard Street to Candlewick (Cannon) Street. The Agas Map labels it
Abchurche lane.It lies mainly in Candlewick Street Ward, but part of it serves as the boundary between Langbourne Ward and Candlewick Street Ward.
While the lane clearly takes its name from the church built therein, the etymology is nonetheless obscure. Stow refers to Abchurch Lane only twice, both times in his
beating the boundsof the two wards. The reference in Langbourne Ward is terse, but the Candlewick Street Ward reference elaborates the indeterminacy of Stow’s research:
Then is Abchurch lane, which is on both the sides, almost wholy of this ward [Candlewick Street Ward], the parish Church there (called of saint Marie Abchurch, Apechurch, or Vpchurch as I haue read it) standeth somewhat neere vnto the south ende thereof, on a rising ground: it is a faire Church[.]
On the Agas Map, the church appears on the west side of Abchurch Lane, about a third of the way up. It is marked with the letter U (Prockter and Taylor 23, 33). While the church was built in the twelfth century (Smith 11), the street is first mentioned in written records in the thirteenth century (Ekwall 159). Ekwall speculates that the church took its name from
an early incumbentnamed Abba or Aba, a documented Old English name (159). Weinreb and Hibbert speculate that the name was originally
Upchurch,referring to the topography of the street. The church stands on slightly rising ground (Weinreb and Hibbert 2), as Stow mentions.
The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed the medieval church building. St. Mary Abchurch was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, with woodwork by Grinling Gibbons (Smith 11). Extensively damaged by a bomb during the Second World War, the church has now been restored and is still home to an active parish.
The street has been home to a number of famous landmarks, mainly having to do with food. In the early seventeenth century,
the lane was renowned for the cakes referred to in John Webster’s Northward Ho (1607) and sold by Mother Wells who had her shop here(Weinreb and Hibbert 2). Later, it became known for an eating establishment named Pontack’s, popular with the Augustan satirists Pope and Swift; Pontack’s served French cuisine (Weinreb and Hibbert 2, 610). Until 1991, the elite Gresham Club for businessmen stood at 15 Abchurch Lane EC4 (Weinreb and Hibbert 338); the building is now home to another private members’ club (Wikipedia).
Another famous institution once operated in Abchurch Lane. The insurance company Lloyd’s of London began in a coffeehouse once owned by Edward Lloyd in Tower Street in 1688. The underwriters moved to the corner of Lombard Street and Abchurch Lane in 1692, where they continued to offer marine insurance and eventually other insurance services until they moved into the second Royal Exchange in 1774 (Weinreb and Hibbert 464–65; see also the Lloyd’s website and their Chronology Factsheet).
- Ekwall, Eilert. Street-Names of the City of London. Oxford: Clarendon, 1965.
- Prockter, Adrian, and Robert Taylor, comps. The A to Z of Elizabethan London. London: Guildhall Library, 1979. [This volume is our primary source for identifying and naming map locations.]
- Smith, Al. Dictionary of City of London Street Names. New York: Arco, 1970.
- Stow, John. A Survey of London. Reprinted from the Text of 1603. Ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. [Also available as a reprint from Elibron Classics (2001). Articles written before 2011 cite from the print edition by volume and page number.]
- Webster, John, and Thomas Dekker. Northward Ho. London, 1607. STC 6539. Reprint. Early English Books Online. Web.
- Weinreb, Ben, and Christopher Hibbert, eds. The London Encyclopaedia. New York: St. Martin’s, 1983. [You may also wish to consult the 3rd edition, published in 2008.]
Last modification: 2016-05-27 14:37:29 -0700 (Fri, 27 May 2016) (tlandels)