Of all the Wren churches in London, this is my favourite. If churches were a selection of cakes, this would be the Fondant Fancy, a small, light, pastel gem that is easy to miss as you wander around the City. You really need to ensure that you step back from this church to admire it. It is easy to miss its best asset if you stand too close. It has the most darling of domes – a small, perfectly formed verdigris cupola. The walls are high and fortress-like with high oval windows that provide both privacy and security.
Sir Christopher Wren created this church in a rectangle for a London congregation and to perfect the dome that would become the signature of St Paul’s cathedral. It took 7 years to complete and was finished in 1679. The Second World War did little to damage this church.
In 1953, the rector of St Stephen Walbrook founded The Samaritan’s as the world's first crisis hotline telephone support to those contemplating suicide. The old fashioned black telephone that was once used by the founder, Dr Chad Varah, is still there encased in Perspex as a reminder of such a good cause.
However, the church, although small and very pretty, also courted controversy. In 1987, the same rector commissioned a Henry Moore altar. This is a rounded block of marble that sits in the very middle of the church with the dome above and the chairs placed in the round. It is theatrical but it has to be said you either love it or hate it.
Sit for a while and enjoy the peace of the church. If you sit around the benches around the edge of the church, you will be sitting where the poorer members of the congregation sat rubbing their backs against the wooden panels and creating its unique patina. As you leave the church and walk away, look back and up to catch the final glimpse of the pale green dome, a rare sight in London that would have been dominated by towers and spires.
As a tour guide and a lover of London, I will be writing a series of interesting stories about London; tales I have heard, places I have visited, tasty food I have eaten and delicious drinks I have enjoyed. Watch out for this every week or so.