Picturing London

Artists' interpretations: St Mary-le-Bow


Church of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, City of London, 1950s
Designer: Sir Christopher Wren
Artist: Albert Oppenheim
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections

Sir Christopher Wren's steeple of St Mary-le-Bow was a major architectural innovation in its time. This picture by Albert Oppenheim shows the steeple in its context among the roofs of the City several centuries later. Muted colours reveal the dirt and dampness that had begun to take hold of the building's fabric at this moment in 1950. The tower's stonework is grimy, emphasising the sculptural richness at the same time as highlighting the church's need for care.

Looking more closely, all around there is evidence of wartime bombing. The tower itself has suffered and metal braces stabilise the large openings at the belfry. Many damaged buildings around St Mary-le-Bow were subsequently demolished in order to erect large modern buildings dwarfing Wren's once soaring spire.

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