St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate, London, UK

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8: St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate, London, UK |

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St Helen's Church in Bishopsgate1 is one of those London treasures that you probably wouldn't notice unless you were looking for it. It's in the shadow (literally) of its surroundings: in the heart of the City of London, it's yards from the Lloyd's Building and the 30 St Mary Axe (better known as the Swiss Re Building or 'Gherkin').

The origins of the building go back to 1210 when the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's allowed the establishment of a nunnery on the site, to the north of an existing church. The nun's church is built alongside the older church. Over the years the building was extended and altered. Four great arches, which are a key feature of the building today, were added. In 1538 the nunnery was surrendered to Henry VIII who was very much into that sort of thing at the time. St Helen's Church was apparently Shakespeare's parish church in the early 17th Century.

Having been one of the few City churches to survive both the 1666 Great Fire of London and then the Blitz, St Helen's was badly damaged by the explosion of an IRA bomb oustide the Baltic Exchange in 1992 and a second bomb in Bishopsgate the following year. It's now been restored; the architect Quinlan Terry used the restoration as an opportunity to lift the floor to its medieval level, and install under-floor heating.

Having passed it countless times, I took a proper look at the outside of this church a few months ago and had to find out more about the history of its architecture. It's one of those amazing London buildings that's adapted to suit the needs of a community as time has gone on.
- h2g2 Researcher
1Or to give it its full name, St Helen Bishopsgate with St Andrew Undershaft & St Ethelburga Bishopsgate & St Martin Outwich & St Mary Axe.

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