St. Michael (Cornhill)

The parish church of St. Michael, Cornhill is located on the southern side of Cornhill Ward between Birchin Lane and Gracechurch Street.
St. Michael, Cornhill was the parish church of John Stow and his family and is the final resting place for Stow’s great-grandparents. Weinreb notes that, the church has a long musical tradition, and is famous for its excellent acoustics (Weinreb 799-800).
The first mention of St. Michael, Cornhill is in 1055, when rectory records show that Althoneus the priest transferred patronage to the Abbot and Convent of Evesham (Harben). In 1503, the widow Elizabeth Peake gifted the patronage of the church to the Drapers Company (Stow; Weinreb).
The medieval tower was rebuilt in 1421 and possessed five bells until a sixth bell was added around 1630 by John and Isabell Whitwell, and William Russe. Stow writes that this bell had the best ring of the six and that it took six men to ring them for harmonye, sweetnes of sound & tune (Stow 196). Cornhill Ward’s armoury was kept in its steeple (Harben 409).
Stow recounts a story he heard from his father about the bell ringers encountering an ugly shapen sight on the tower of the church on a stormy St. James’ night,1 which knocked them down in fear while the bells rang of their own accord. When the men came around they noticed claw marks on the stone, raysed and scrat, as if they had been so much butter, which they attributed to the devil (Stow).
The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed everything but the tower of St. Michael, Cornhill, which was preserved when rebuilt by Christopher Wren between 1670-1672. Wren began work on a newly designed tower in 1715 but due to a lack of funds, construction was suspended until 1718 when architect Nicholas Hawksmoor took over the project (Weinreb). The new tower was completed in 1722 and was, by Hawksmoor’s own design, in imitation of the Magdalen Tower at Oxford. It surpassed Magdalen Tower at 130 ft in height (Madgalen Tower was 35 ft) and six more bells were added. It is now a celebrated piece of neo-gothic architecture, though commonly attributed to Wren (Sugden; Weinreb).
Today, St. Michael, Cornhill remains under the patronage of the Draper’s Company and carries on its musical tradition with many prestigious composers and organists having performing within. The church website can be found here.


  1. The Feast Day of Saint James is observed on July 25th and celebrates the life of Saint James, one of Jesus’ first disciples, and patron saint of pilgrims and Spain. See Wikipedia. (KLM)


Cite this page

MLA citation

McKenna, Katie. St. Michael (Cornhill) The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 6.6, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 30 Jun. 2021, INP.

Chicago citation

McKenna, Katie. St. Michael (Cornhill) The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 6.6. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed June 30, 2021. INP.

APA citation

McKenna, K. 2021. St. Michael (Cornhill) In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 6.6). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from INP.

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - McKenna, Katie
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - St. Michael (Cornhill)
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 6.6
PY  - 2021
DA  - 2021/06/30
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

TEI citation

<bibl type="mla"><author><name ref="#MCKE4"><surname>McKenna</surname>, <forename>Katie</forename></name></author>. <title level="a">St. Michael (Cornhill)</title> <title level="m">The Map of Early Modern London</title>, Edition <edition>6.6</edition>, edited by <editor><name ref="#JENS1"><forename>Janelle</forename> <surname>Jenstad</surname></name></editor>, <publisher>U of Victoria</publisher>, <date when="2021-06-30">30 Jun. 2021</date>, <ref target=""></ref>. INP.</bibl>

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