Sir Christopher Wren rebuilds the church
In 1666 the great fire ravaged London, but the medieval church of St Andrew’s was only saved at the last minute by a change in the wind direction.
However, as it was already in a bad state of repair, the Church Council employed Christopher Wren rebuilt the church anyway.
He rebuilt from the medieval foundations, building the vaulted crypt that still exists beneath the church today. It is his largest parish church.
At the beginning of the Eighteenth century the tower was clad in Portland Stone, establishing the high tower that we see today.
John Stanley (1712-1786) was Organist here from the age of 14, and died nearby in Hatton Garden. He became a governor of the Foundling Hospital after George Frederick Handel’s death and continued the tradition of performing the Messiah for the Hospital.
The church is the resting place of the body of Thomas Coram, who founded the Foundlings’ Hospital in 1741, now called Coram (www.coram.org.uk). The first hospital was set up in a house in nearby Hatton Garden.
The organ casing at the west end is also from the Foundlings’ Hospital Chapel, along with the pulpit and the font. These were previously at the hospital’s large premises in Bloomsbury, where the composer George Fredrick Handel would have played for his fundraising concerts. The Coram Family still owns a copy of his most famous work ‘The Messiah’.
The church was also the founding place of the Royal Free Hospital. On the church steps in 1827 William Marsden found a dying woman. He was inspired to set up a hospital in Greville Street for the poor and destitute, later it moved to Gray’s Inn Road. The hospital is now based in Hampstead.