Essential Architecture-  London

St. Stephen's Walbrook


Sir Christopher Wren




1672 to 1687


late English Renaissance to NeoBaroque (glorious interior)




St Stephen, Walbrook is a small church in the City of London, part of the Church of England's Diocese of London. It is located at 39 Walbrook, EC4, near the Bank and Monument Underground stations.

Dating back to a Saxon church from the 7th century, this church is on the former site of the River Walbrook, which now runs underground. It originally stood on the west bank of the stream, but was rebuilt around 1439[1] on the east side. The 15th century building, destroyed in the Great Fire of London, contained a memorial to the English composer John Dunstaple. The wording of the epitaph had been recorded in the early 17th century, and was reinstated in the church in 1904, some 450 years after his death.

In 1670, St Benet Sherehog was merged.

The current church was built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672-80, following the 15th century building's destruction in the Great Fire of 1666. The 63 feet high dome is based on Wren's original design for St Paul’s, and this is centred over a square of twelve columns. The circular base of the dome is not carried, in the conventional way, by pendentives formed above the arches of the square, but on a circle formed by eight arches that spring from eight of the twelve columns, cutting across each corner in the manner of the Byzantine squinch[2]. This all contributes to create what many consider to be one of Wren's finest church interiors.

It suffered slight bomb damage during World War II and was later restored.

In 1954, St Mary Bothaw and St Swithin London Stone (merged in 1670) were merged.

Nowadays, it has two main claims to fame:

Henry Moore's controversial massive white polished stone altar, commissioned by a property developer Lord Palumbo and installed in 1987, which sits unusually in the centre of the church.
A telephone in a glass box, a tribute to the founding of the Samaritans at the church by the rector, Dr Chad Varah, in 1953. This voluntary organisation began with this telephone, and today staffs a 24-hour telephone hot-line for people in emotional need. The first Samaritans branch (known as Central London Branch) operated from a crypt beneath the church before moving to Marshall Street in Soho.