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ST HELENS CHURCH

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  CHURCH OF ST HELEN BISHOPGATE, PRIORY OF ST HELEN BISHOPGATE, PRIORY CHURCH OF ST HELENS
DESCRIPTION + /

Church documented as extant in 1010-13 when the body of St Edmund was moved there to avoid it being captured by the Danes. A church here was in existence by the mid 12th century; passages of walling of this date are believed to remain on the south side. In about 1210, a nunnery of the Benedictine Order was established to the north of the church and connected with it. The basic plan form and dimensions of St Helen's today are the result of the consequent rebuilding. The church itself divides into the nuns' choir on the north and the parish nave and chancel on the south, with a south transept added south of the chancel c1360 and consisting of two chapels. The present nave arcade dates from 1470-5 and the internal form of the main roofs also dates from this period. Between the nuns' choir and the parish church are four great arches which dominate the building and were constructed in about 1480. The nunnery was dissolved in 1538 and in 1543 the convent buildings were acquired by the Leathersellers' Company, but the nuns' choir passed into the possession of the parish, and became part of the parish church. Early in the 17th century the south window of the south transept was inserted , and in 1633 the south nave doorway was built and the church generally restored. The timber cupola over the west front was erected in the early 18th century, and in 1799 the east range of the monastic buildings were removed and the north wall of the nuns' choir made good. The principal 19th century alterations took place in 1807-9, 1865-8, 1892-3 (J L Pearson). In the 20th century alterations took place in 1919, 1933 and 1966-8. On 10 April 1992 an IRA bomb exploded in the heart of the City, badly damaging the church. Following this damage the church was restored and re-ordered to the designs of Quinlan Terry in 1995-97.

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