St Botolph's Aldgate

Coordinates: 51°30′50″N 00°04′34″W / 51.51389°N 0.07611°W / 51.51389; -0.07611

St Botolph's Church, Aldgate, or just Aldgate Church, is a Church of England liberal and inclusive parish church in the City of London, standing at the junction of Houndsditch and Aldgate High Street. The current 18th century church is made of brick with stone quoins and window casings. The tower is square with an obelisk spire.

The parish was united with that of Holy Trinity, Minories in 1899.

History

The first written record of this church appears in 1115 when it was received by the Holy Trinity Priory (recently founded by Matilda of England) but the parochial foundations may very well be pre-1066.

The church was rebuilt in the 16th century and then again between 1741-1744 to designs by George Dance the Elder.

The interior "was redecorated by J. F. Bentley, the architect of Westminster Cathedral, was severely bombed at intervals during the London Blitz of the Second World War and then, after its restoration by Rodney Tatchell, was much damaged by an inexplicable outbreak of fire in 1965, so that further restoration had to be carried out. St Botolph's was rehallowed on November 8, 1966 by the Bishop of London, in the presence of the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Sir Robert Bellinger, the Lord Mayor of London, who attended in state."

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.

The church is a short walk away from Mitre Square, the site of the murder of Catherine Eddowes by Jack the Ripper, as well as easy access to the other four murder sites of 1888. It was often referred to as the "Church of Prostitutes" in the late Victorian period for a very strange reason, the church is situated on an island of land surrounded by roadways and it was common in Victorian times to be suspicious of women stood on street corners so the this made them easy targets for the police. To avoid this the prostitutes would parade around the island that the church and Aldgate tube station now occupy, thus avoiding "hanging around an street corners".

Organ

The organ by Renatus Harris was built in the early 18th century. It has recently undergone a historical restoration by the organ builders Goetze and Gwynn. It has been restored to its 1744 specification using many of the original components. This organ has been described as the oldest church organ in the United Kingdom. Although there are older pipes and cases, this is the oldest collection of pipes in their original positions on their original wind chests. Because of its historic importance the organ was filmed and recorded for the documentary The Elusive English Organ.

Donated by Thomas Whiting in 1676 it was built between 1702 to 1704. It was enhanced for the new church (the current building) by Harris' son-in-law, John Byfield, in 1740. The organ was considerably enlarged several times in the 19th century and again rebuilt by Mander Organs in the 1960s having survived a World War II bomb, which lodged in the roof of the church but failed to explode. The decision to restore the instrument was taken by St Botolph’s in 2002 after which a fundraising campaign was launched. The restoration, undergone under the consultancy of Ian Bell took nine months during which time the organ has been at the workshops of Goetze and Gwynn in Welbeck, Nottinghamshire. It was reinstalled in May 2006.

Notable parishioners
  • Daniel Defoe was married in the church in 1683
  • Thomas Bray, founder of SPCK was rector from 1706 to 1730