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A message from the rector

Mr Brian Grumbridge has written an excellent history of  St Olave’s since 1895, which we hope to launch later this year. This follows on from Rev Dr Alfred Povah’s very comprehensive history of St Olave’s, from 1050 to 1895.  St Olave Hart Street has a rich history of Christian witness and this year on 15 June, we give God thanks that it is exactly 70 years since the rebuilding of St Olave’s began after the destruction of the blitz.

Brian writes:

It is possible that as early as the 11th century a wooden church, dedicated to St Olave, king and martyr as he was called, may have been erected on the present site of St Olave’s, Hart Street. Later (c1180 AD) a stone church was built – the existing chapel (below ground level) is all that now remains. The third church is said to have been built by Richard and Robert Cely, Fellmongers c1450 AD.

The Church was struck by two high explosive bombs on April 16/17 1941 one of which largely destroyed the interior of the church with the roof and the other which did not explode but fell into the area below the floor of the south aisle and had to be dug up and removed. On May 10/11 1941 a destructive fire engulfed large portions of the parishes of St Olave Hart Street & All Hallows Staining and the tower of the church was gutted, together with all the furniture and fittings which had been stored in the baptistery and tower room. The Rectory adjoining was completely burnt out.

On the first Sunday after the tragedy services were held at Clothworkers’ Hall, by the kind permission of the Master and Court of the Company: but the Sunday after the Rector and his congregation went to the Church of St Edmund the King, Lombard Street. After the war a pre-fabricated temporary church, St Olave, Mark Lane, (adjoining the Tower of All Hallows Staining) was built by the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers and was in use from 1948 to 1954 whilst St Olave’s, Hart Street, was rebuilt.

The laying of the Restoration Stone took place on 15 June 1951 at 11.30 a.m. with the ceremony bring performed by King Haakon VII of Norway. Also present were His Excellency The Norwegian Ambassador, Bishop Arne Fjellbu of Trondheim, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress and the Lord Bishop of London.

The new Rectory was opened on 18 May 1953 and the restored church of St Olave was re-hallowed on 9 April 1954[i].

As 70 years have passed, we give God thanks for the rebuilding of this beautiful church, a sanctuary of prayer and worship within the City of London.

In Psalm 127, we read:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
             those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

We pray for the church of St Olave Hart Street, that this hallowed ground will provide a glimpse of the glory of God to all who worship here, all who visit, all who work close by, that lives will be transformed through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rev Canon Arani Sen

June 2021

[i] Extracted from The Story of The Churches and Parish of Saint Olave, Hart Street with All Hallows Staining and Saint Catherine Coleman after c1895 by Brian Grumbridge due to be launched in autumn 2021)