St Sepulchre-without-Newgate

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Holborn), is an Anglican church in the City of London. It is located on Holborn Viaduct, almost opposite the Old Bailey. In medieval times it stood just outside ("without") the now-demolished old city wall, near the Newgate.


The original Saxon church on the site was dedicated to St Edmund the King and Martyr. During the Crusades in the 12th century the church was renamed St Edmund and the Holy Sepulchre, in reference to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The name eventually became contracted to St Sepulchre.

The church is today the largest parish church in the City. It was completely rebuilt in the 15th century but was gutted by the Great Fire of London in 1666, which left only the outer walls, the tower and the porch standing -. Modified in the 18th century, the church underwent extensive restoration in 1878. It narrowly avoided destruction in the Second World War, although the 18th-century watch-house in its churchyard (erected to deter grave-robbers) was completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt.

The interior of the church is a wide, roomy space with a coffered ceiling installed in 1834. The north aisle is dominated by a splendid organ built by Renatus Harris in 1670.

During the reign of Mary I in 1555, St Sepulchre's vicar, John Rogers, was burned as a heretic.

St Sepulchre is one of the "Cockney bells" of London, named in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons as the "bells of Old Bailey". Traditionally, the great bell would be rung to mark the execution of a prisoner at the nearby gallows at Newgate. The clerk of St Sepulchre's was also responsible for ringing a handbell outside the condemned man's cell in Newgate Prison to inform him of his impending execution. This handbell, known as the Execution Bell, now resides in a glass case to the south of the nave.

The church has been the official musicians' church for many years and is associated with many famous musicians. Its north aisle (formerly a chapel dedicated to Stephen Harding) is dedicated as the Musicians' Chapel, with four windows commemorating John Ireland, the singer Dame Nellie Melba, Walter Carroll and the conductor Sir Henry Wood respectively. Wood, who "at the age of fourteen, learned to play the organ" at this church and later became its organist, also has his ashes buried in this church.

The south aisle of the church holds the regimental chapel of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), and its gardens are a memorial garden to that regiment. The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.

Notable people associated with the church
  • Thomas Culpeper, buried here
  • Thomas Gouge, ejected minister in 1662
  • John Rogers, minister, Bible translator, and the first English Protestant martyr under Mary I of England
  • Austin Osman Spare attended the church school, now a physiotherapy centre, behind the church in Snowhill Lane
  • Peter Mullen, current rector and conservative commentator
  • John Smith, governor of Virginia and associate of Pocahontas: buried 1631. Smith is commemorated by a handsome window designed by Francis Skeat and installed in 1968.
  • Sir Henry Wood, conductor

The Vicars' old quarters has recently been renovated into a modern living quarter, and is presently occupied by three lawyers and a science teacher. Registered as The Parvis Flat, these living quarters are extremely homely and the roof-top balcony is ideal for summer entertainment.


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