A church has stood on this site
for over 1,000 years and the present building is dedicated
to St Magnus, Earl of Orkney, an early-Christian leader who
was brutally murdered in 1116.
Destroyed in 1666 during the
Great Fire of London, St Magnus the Martyr was rebuilt by
Sir Christopher Wren in 1671 - 76, and the steeple, 185
feet high, was added in 1703 - 06. Wren based
the design of the spire on the church of St Charles Borromée
Projecting from the west side
is a large clock given by Sir Charles Duncombe in 1700, this
was once one of the most familiar clocks in London but since
the 1920s it has been hidden by Adelaide House.
St Magnus stood at the north
end of Old London Bridge which, until 1738, was London's only
bridge, and anyone going south across the river had to pass
under Wren's arched porch, which spanned the flagstones leading
to the old bridge. A model of Old London Bridge, by
David T Agget, can be seen in the west vestibule of the church.
In the 1920s the church was embellished
by Martin Travers for Anglo-Catholic worship, and the focus
of the interior is on the reredos which is twice the normal
size. The lower part dates from Wren's time but the
upper part was added in Wren style by Martin Travers in 1924
- 25. Unusually the reredos is surmounted by a rood,
a badge of the Anglo-Catholic movement of the 1920s.
Wren's pulpit, with an ornate
tester, was restored in 1924. A statue of St Magnus,
created in 1925 by Martin Travers, stands in the south aisle.
One of the highlights of the
church is the organ case, decorated with carved musical instruments.
The organ, created in 1712 by Abraham Jordon, was the first
to have a swell-box.
The interior of St Magnus the
Martyr is described as an 'inexplicable splendour of Ionian
white and gold' in T.S. Eliot's, 'The Waste Land'