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BARBICAN LIFE


Shoreditch Church


St. Leonard’s Shoreditch is a local church with a fascinating history bound up with early London theatre, while today it is the focus for much charity work for the homeless and other vulnerable citizens


St. Leonard’s Shoreditch – Photo by Fin Fahey


and other famous people are buried there over and above the old theatrical entrepreneurs and actors, including James Parkinson, a local doctor who lived his life in the Parish, after whom Parkinson’s disease was named and The Reverend Samuel Annesley, grandfather of John and Charles Wesley.


Those who watched the recent highly rated TV comedy The Rev may also recognise the church as being the fictional St. Saviours, the East end parish church at which The Rev Adam Smallbone is the new incumbent.. We are indebted for much of that which follows to a summary of the church’s history from its own web presence – http://shoreditchchurch. wordpress.com, and from other internet sources.


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couple of issues ago in Barbican Life(the December issue) we wrote about The Theatre – the first


London theatre which was located in Shoreditch and featured many of Shakespeare’s plays in its time, indeed many were performed there for the first time. The Curtain theatre was also constructed at around the same time just down the road. The local church - St. Leonard’s Shoreditch (mostly referred to in the area as


Shoreditch Church) – became very much the actors’ church as a result


and many famous names associated with the early theatre are buried there including William Shakespeare’s business partners, friends and other actors. There is a plaque commemorating some of these hidden away in the church. There is another association with which almost all English children will be familiar. St. Leonards provided the ‘Bells of Shoreditch’ quoted in the possibly plague related nursery rhyme (although some dispute this) Oranges and Lemons. The church’s history though is fascinating for other reasons too –


Dedicated to St Leonard, the patron saint of prisoners and those who are mentally ill, there has been a church at this location (for many centuries. The first Christians in England were probably soldiers in the Roman army. The church stands on the site where all the Roman roads joined. You can travel from here to Chester, Bath, Lincoln, York, Chichester and Colchester along their old routes. The Wallbrook river rises outside the front door which made it a perfect site for the army camp. It is just possible, although hopeful, that Christians were here while Claudius was still emperor and Luke was writing his gospel. Little is known of those early days but there is some description of an Anglo-Saxon church which was demolished when the Normans built a replacement. This had its first vicar in 1185.


It was this church which


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