Friday, 4 January 2013

Brief history of St Olave

This small medieval gem in the heart of the city of London has managed to retained an atmosphere of a country parish church. The church of St Olave's which stands on Hart street is dedicated to king Olave of Norway for his assistance against the Danish invaders in which he pulled down old London bridge thus stopping them from entering the city. This puts the start of the churches history over 1000 years ago just before the Norman conquest. The earlier church was mostly rebuilt in Perpendicular Gothic some time in the fifteenth century in which most of the current church dates, although there are some thirteen century fragments from the older church. The only other major alteration in its early history was the rebuilding of the top half of the tower which was rebuilt in brick on top of the earlier tower in the eighteen century. 

The church escaped the great fire due to a quick thinking of the diarist Samuel Pepys and local resident William Penn Senior who ordered the destruction of surrounding buildings to create a fire break which stopped the fire spreading to the church. However, it did not escape damage during the second Great fire during the Second World War when it received a direct hit leaving it a gutted shell. Whilst it underwent restoration the parish was moved to the nearby site of All Hallows staining where a temporary nave was built. The church was reopened after a long restored in 1954. Although it was badly damaged in the war it has been relevantly sensitively restored and it has managed to keep its medieval charm.

The church has many interesting features of note the first is the thirteenth century crypt which has managed to survive without much alteration or destruction. Another interesting feature is the vestry door is thought to be from the previous building dating from the thirteenth century. The graveyard also has an interesting history, it was raised up from street level in 1665 to bury the dead of the 1665 great plague, this is marked by the entrance arch to the church yard displaying 

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