Saxon church was the first church to occupy this site in the
7th century. The church stood on the banks of the now vanished
River Walbrook, a tributary of the Thames that now flows underground
through the City.
St Stephen Walbrook, the Lord
Mayor's parish church, was rebuilt after the Great Fire by
Sir Christopher Wren in 1672 - 80 and the graceful spire was
added in 1713 -17 Mainly hidden behind the Mansion
House, the small church has a plain exterior, and
inside the Classical interior, entered through a 17th century
door-case, is bright and airy.
The cross-in-square plan has
a central dome, creating a feeling of space in a relatively
cramped site. The dome, a forerunner of the dome of
St Paul's, has ornate plasterwork supported by eight Corinthian
columns and arches. High box pews once filled the body
of the church but since they have gone the high bases of the
columns serve no purpose.
The great arched east window
almost fills the chancel wall and in front is a 17th century
reredos by Thomas Creecher and William Newman.
St Stephen Walbrook suffered
serious bomb damage during World War II but has been restored,
largely due to efforts by Lord Palumbo. Many of the
original fittings survived including Wren's ornate font and
pulpit with its canopy. These 17th century fittings
contrast with Henry Moore's massive white polished stone altar,
commissioned by Lord Palumbo and installed in 1987.
The altar, placed under the dome,
has light-coloured benches curving around it.
Above the south door is the organ,
built in 1906, by William Hill but with a case from 1765.
On the north wall hangs 'The Martyrdom of St Stephen' by the
American artist Benjamin West, who later became a Royal Academician
in 1768. The most moving monument, however, is a telephone
in a glass box, a tribute to the Rector, Prebendary Dr Chad
Varah, who in 1953 founded the 'Samaritans', the voluntary
organisation that staffs a 24 hour telephone hot-line for
people in emotional need.
Lunchtime organ recitals are
held in St Stephen Walbrook and these free concerts allow
visitors to see the church at its best.