Amongst the London locations for births, christenings, marriages and burials of the Richardson, Fairfax and Welch families, one stood out as being quite different to the rest.
The church of St. Peter upon Cornhill only appeared as the baptismal location for both William Andrew Richardson (b1852) and his sister Ada Mary (b 1856) so far as I have been able to uncover. There may have been others in the family baptised here, but as yet those records have not come to light.
St Peter upon Cornhill is located on the corner of, not surprisingly, Cornhill and Gracechurch Street adjacent to the Leadenhall Market. At the time of the baptisms, David and Dorothy Fairfax Richardson were recorded as residing at No 3 Leadenhall Street – literally just across the road!
The house, if it was a house, is no longer there. Leadenhall Market buildings are still in use (although redeveloped in 1881 and after the time of the Richardson family’s residence there) and it’s possible that No 3 was built in a somewhat similar style – a shop at street level and residences above. David was, during the time they lived there (1852-56), still being identified as an ‘outfitter’. The site of No 3 has vanished under a modern development coupled with road widening in recent years.
The Church itself has an interesting history. Notably, it was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London (1666) to a design by Sir Christopher Wren and includes one of the finest examples of wooden screens to the nave. It was not part of Wren’s design, but installed at the insistence of the then vicar.
Not mentioned in the detail of the history of the church as can be found in Wikipedia is the baptismal font. The Font is one of the oldest known and has a remarkable carved top which is removed by a complex series of pulleys attached to the church walls and ceiling.
This font is most certainly the one where William and Ada would have received their names and blessings in the presence of their parents and witnesses.
The original stained glass windows survived the bombings of London during the Second World War as they were removed and stored away from potential damage as were those of many of the other churches in London. Unlike many other churches in London, St Peter seems to have narrowly escaped a Victorian era makeover and remains one of the few churches that reflects the original design intentions of its architect.
It was quite coincidental and extremely fortuitous that my visit was timed with the church’s rare public opening time – it is no longer used for congregational worship instead it serves as a training facility and has only recently become accessible to the public. The Friends of the City Churches work to keep many of London’s smaller churches open for public visiting including St Peter upon Cornhill thereby encouraging the respectful preservation of these historic locations. The guide’s knowledge of the building and its history helped greatly in placing our family in their time within its walls.
All images accompanying this article are original & copyright to R M Stockfeld 2018.