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History Overview

The new church

On the 20th of December 1961 the restored bells of St Mary-le-Bow rang out to mark the start of re-building: one of the bell-ringers that day was HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The reconstruction effort cost £400,000 and the new church was re-consecrated by Bishop Stopford of London on the 11th of June 1964 in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Also present that day was Dr John Huess, Rector of Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City. Trinity Church had received its charter from King William III on 6th May 1697 and its Vestry was commanded to do everything 'according to the use of St Mary-le-Bow'. Trinity and St Mary’s have enjoyed close fraternal relations within the world-wide Anglican Communion ever since.

The latest version of St Mary’s was built largely to the original Wren specification with a design by Laurence King. One aspect of the original Wren specification which remains unimplemented since the 1670s is the loggia which he envisaged for the church along Cheapside. Today a mobile telephone showroom occupies the Cheapside location where the loggia should stand: God and Mammon existing peacefully, if not quite harmoniously, side by side. In the City it was ever thus.

The stained glass windows in the new church (by John Hayward) include an impressive figure of Christ in Majesty surrounded by the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit in the central window over the altar. A number of chandeliers provide internal lighting but perhaps the most imposing internal feature is the vast gilt rood figure of the Crucifixion which is suspended above the nave. The rood was made by Otto Irsara of Oberamagau and was a gift from the German people to St Mary’s in 1964. The figure (or Corpus) of the crucified Christ on the east wall is a work from the 1980s by Simon Robinson; together with a Paschal (or Easter) and altar candle stands; all are made from stainless steel. The organ was moved and rebuilt by Rushworth and Dreaper from the north-east corner to its present position over the western doorway in 1964. This inadequate instrument was replaced in 2010 by Kenneth Tickell & Company. The two stained glass windows in the west wall depict the story of the government of the City. And the corbel heads on the top of the arches depict the Rector and Rebuilder, the Reverend Joseph McCulloch; Laurence King, the architect; Lt Col. W.W.Dove, the contractor; Alderman Sir Cuthbert Ackroyd, who chaired the restoration committee; together with a Parish Clerk and Foreman of the Works.

The north east chapel, perhaps intended by King to be a Lady Chapel now houses a bronze relief of St Michael and the Dragon by Ragnild Butenshon, placed in memory of Norwegians who died in the resistance to the Nazi occupation from 1940-45. The sculpture was given by the people of Norway (and unveiled by King Olav V in 1966) for whom the sound of Bow Bells, broadcast throughout Europe was a symbol of hope during the occupation.

The south west corner houses the banner of the Order of Australia together with a bust of Admiral Arthur Philip (1738-1814) Citizen of London and first Governor of New South Wales, whose life is commemorated in an annual service and address.