The only remaining Wren church in the city built in the Gothic style, ‘Aldermary ’ is a reference to the church being the oldest in the city dedicated to Mary. The church has 11th Century origins, and has historically benefited from a tradition of bequests paying for renovation and rebuilding when required. These can be traced back to the original in 1510 for £ 1000, from the Lord Mayor, Sir Henry Keeble. The most notable subsequent bequest was that of West Country squire Henry Rogers in 1679, whose estate paid around £ 5000 towards the rebuilding of the church after the great fire.
Christopher Wren’s office rebuilt St. Mary’s from 1679-82 in it’s previous Gothic style, as requested by the parish. The Tower is thought to be a Wren copy from the pre-fire church, said to have been one of the finest in the city. The introduction of Queen Victoria Street in 1871 gave the opportunity for some Victorian Gothic restoration, especially on the newly exposed south side of the church. St. Mary’s ceiling is the single feature that many come to see, it is decorated with superb plaster fan vaults, unusual in scale for a parish church. Wren’s ceiling design includes both coats of Arms of Henry Rogers and William Sancroft, 79th Archbishop of Canterbury.
St. Mary’s suffered slight bomb damage during World War II, and new stained glass windows depicting the Arms of the Cordwainers (shoemaker’s) Livery Company were installed in 1951. Bow Lane, on which the church stands, was the shoemaker’s historic home, and was previously called Cordwainer Street.
Author John Milton married his third wife, Elizabeth Minshull, here at St. Mary’s in 1663, he was born just a few metres away in Bread Street.St. Mary Aldermary is opened by ‘The friends of the City Churches’ on most wednesdays between 11am – 3pm.