St. Peter upon Cornhill

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St. Peter upon Cornhill stood at the highest point of the city, on the south side of Cornhill street near the corner of Gracechurch Street. It lies in the south east of Cornhill ward and is featured on the Agas map with the label S. Peter. St. Peter’s upon Cornhill is of medieval origin. An often cited tablet within the church claims that St. Peter’s was founded in 197 CE by King Lucius as the first Christian church in London. St. Peter’s served as the chief church of King Lucius’ kingdom for 400 years until the reign of Augustin the Monk. Skepticism over the veracity of the account is expressed by Stow, since Lucius’ claim as the first Christian king was contested by ecclesiastical historians. The inscription on the tablet is believed to have been authored in a later century and reads: Be hit known to all men, that the yeerys of owr Lord God, An. CLXXIX. Lucius, the fyrst Christen king of this Lond, then callyd Brytayne, fowndyd the fyrst chyrch in London, that is to sey, the chyrch of Sent Peter apon Cornhyl; and he fowndyd ther an archbishop’s see, and made that chirch the metropolitant and cheef chirch of this kindom, and so enduryd the space of CCCC. yeerys and more, unto the commyng of Sent Austen, an apostyl of Englond, the whych was sent into the Lond by Sent Gregory, the doctor of the chirch, in the tyme of king Ethelbert, and then was the archbishoppys see and pol removyd from the aforeseyd chirch of Sent Peter’s apon Cornhyl unto Derebernaum, that now ys callyd Canterbury, and ther yt remeynyth to this dey. And Millet Monk, whych came into this Lond wyth Sent Austen, was made the fyrst bishop of London, and hys see was made in Powllys chirch. And this Lucius, kyng, was the fyrst foundyr of Peter’s chyrch apon Cornhyl; and he regnyd king in thys ilond after Brut, MCCXLV. yeerys. And the yeerys of owr Lord God a CXXIV. Lucius was crownyd kyng, and the yeerys of hys reygne LXXVII yeerys, and he was beryd aftyr sum cronekil at London, and aftyr sum cronekil he was beryd at Glowcester, at that plase wher the ordyr of Sent Francys standyth. (Noorthouk 606). Adding to the legend, it is said that the second archbishop of London, Elvanus, built a library next to St. Peter’s that helped to convert many Druids to Christianity (Stow; BHO 195). Records show that William Kingston donated his tenement called the Horse Mill in Gracechurch Street to the library before 1298. St. Peter’s rectory included the patronage of Sir Hugh Nevil, Lady Alice Nevil, Richard Earl of Arundel and Surrey in 1362, and then passed through divers hands before it became common property in 1411 under the London Mayor Richard Whittington (196). St. Peter’s library was re-installed as a grammar school in 1447, as one of four established by the parliament under King Henry VI (194-195). Stow says that despite its ancient appearance, it had been almost entirely rebuilt, except for the steeple (194). There were five bells, until a sixth bell was added around 1630 by John and Isabell Whitewell, and William Rus. Stow recounts a story he heard from his father about the bell ringers encountering an ugly shapen sight on the tower of the church one stormy night, which knocked them down while the bells rang of their own accord. When the men came around they noticed claw marks on the stone, which they attributed to the devil. Although the clergy of St. Peter’s was chiefly composed of members of the Fishmongers’ Company (Harben 469), Stow remarks that some inhabitants of Limestreet Ward went to St. Peter’s for church service while their parish churches, such as St. Augustine’s Papey, were suppressed during the Reformation (161). St. Peter’s burned down in the Great Fire and was rebuilt by Christopher Wren between 1675-81 (Weinreb 815). The tablet was destroyed by the fire but its inscription was re-inscribed on a brass plate, which remains in the church today.


Last modification: 2017-05-04 00:42:33 -0400 (Thu, 04 May 2017) (jtakeda)
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MLA citation:

“St. Peter upon Cornhill.” The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Web. 17 February 2018. <>.

Chicago citation:

“St. Peter upon Cornhill.” n.d. The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed February 17, 2018.

APA citation:

St. Peter upon Cornhill. (n.d.). In J. Jenstad (Ed.), The Map of Early Modern London. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from

TEI citation:

<bibl> <title level="a">St. Peter upon Cornhill</title>. (<date>n.d.</date>). In <editor><persName><forename>J.</forename> <surname>Jenstad</surname></persName></editor> (Ed.), <title level="m">The Map of Early Modern London</title>. Retrieved <date when="2018-02-17">February 17, 2018</date>, from <ref target=""></ref> </bibl>