St Bride’s Church
Just off Fleet Street near Ludgate Circus is St Bride’s which was built in 1672 by Sir Christopher Wren.
What I love about St Bride’s is the story about how it inspired the design of the traditional wedding cake.
Just nearby, on Ludgate Hill a pastry chef called William Rich had his shop and every day he would look out of his window at this tiered church. On one particular day he was asked to bake a wedding cake and he thought how wonderful it would be to have it look like St Bride’s Church.
The fact that it’s called St Brides is just a happy coincidence. It’s most likely that it’s named after its patron saint, St Bridget of Ireland.
Ludgate is called Ludgate because it was one of the gates of the old city, like Newgate, Aldgate and Bishopsgate. There used to be a statue of Queen Elizabeth at Ludgate (the only surviving one carved of her during her lifetime) but it has now been moved to St Dunstan’s in the West.
Anyway, during the building of St Bride’s Sir Christopher Wren decided that the workmen would need a pub nearby for sustenance so he had built The Old Bell which appears in Epicure’s Almanac of 1842.
There is also a curious story associated with Salisbury Square just around the corner. You thought the Nazis were the only ones who burnt books; you were wrong!
Frederick Duke of York
Frederick Duke of York, the second son of the Mad King George lll, had many mistresses but the most troublesome was Mary Anne Clark. He dumped her in 1810 after getting bored of her but she was annoyed because he was notoriously stingy and very much disliked by everybody, being called, as he was, the stinky Duke.
Most royal mistresses, like Nell Gwynn, King Charles’ favourite, were bought nice houses and given a pension to keep them quiet but she got nothing. That is until she decided to write her memoirs with a particularly salacious chapter devoted to her affair with the Duke of York. She then came to Fleet Street, the centre of the publishing industry and printed 10 000 copies!
When he got wind of this he was horrified and bought all 10 000 copies and burnt them here in Salisbury Square and Mary Anne Clark got her town house and pension!