History

Fame and The Famous

There are many burials under the Church and interesting memorials on the walls, unfortunately not including one to Sir John Vanbrugh, dramatist, architect of Blenheim and of Castle Howard, and junior colleague of Wren, whose body lies in the vault beneath the floor. There are memorials to John Dunstable, 'father of English Music', and to rector George Croly, the famous preacher whom the Brontë sisters were taken to hear by Emily's publisher's reader, himself a parishioner. The list of Rectors includes Henry Pendleton, the 'Vicar of Bray'; several divines, one of whom was later sent to the Tower of London; and de Courcey Laffan, who helped Baron Courbetin to revive the Olympic Games.

Because the building was not islanded as it is now, the exterior is roughly finished: 'Never was so rich a jewel in so poor a setting, so sweet a kernel in so rough a husk', wrote Bumpus. By the eighteenth century, the building was famous all over Europe. When Lord Burlington went to Rome to see fine buildings, he was met by the Italian sculptor-architect, Canova, who congratulated him on coming from London to which, he said, he would gladly return to feast his eyes once more on St. Paul's Cathedral, Somerset House, and, most of all, St. Stephen Walbrook. Burlington had to admit that he did not know the last, and Canova sent him back to look at it, saying 'we have nothing to touch it in Rome'. Sir John Sommerson has described the Church as 'the pride of English architecture, and one of the few City churches in which the genius of Wren shines in full splendour'. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner lists it as one of the ten most important buildings in England.

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