St James Garlickhythe

The stretch of river close by St James was London's most important hythe, landing place, since Saxon times, with garlic, a vital preservative and medicine was unloaded here and traded on Garlick Hill, where the church stands.

About this church

The first known mention of the church was in a will dated around 1100. It was rebuilt in the 14th century by Richard de Rothing and his son John, both Vintners. Six medieval mayors buried in the church are commemorated by plaques on the north wall. After the Great Fire of 1666, Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt the church, the foundation stone was laid in 1676.

The exterior of the church is deceptively simple, however the steeple is one of the city’s most beautiful and ornate. It is said to resemble an ornate wedding cake, an image emphasised by the pure whiteness of the Portland stone.

The gallery with its handsome double staircase was added to accommodate the organ, which was installed in 1718 by Johann Knoppell, though it is believed to have been originally built by Bernhard Schmidt known as 'Father Smith'.

Apart from St Paul's, the forty foot high ceiling is the highest in the city and Wren was so successful at introducing natural light into the church that it became known as 'Wren's Lantern'. In the early 19th century, the great east window replaced in 1815 by a painting of the Ascension by Andrew Geddes, ARA.

The original woodwork includes the altar table carved with doves, the font cover and the churchwardens' pews at the west end. The font is of marble with carved cherubs' heads. The original ironwork includes the mayoral swordrest with lion and unicorn supporters on the south side.

One of the greatest mysteries of the church is its mummy, Jimmy Garlick. Jimmy has lived all over the church; starting in the vaults beneath the church where he was discovered in a state of almost perfect preservation, then moving to a cupboard in the narthex, even behind the organ, where people paid ‘a bob’ to see him. He is a small, wizened character, and for many years it was assumed that due to his size and whippety slender, he was an adolescent boy from the late 17th century. Jimmy now has a fine coffin and is hidden from sight inside the body of the church, his existence as a tourist attraction mercifully ended.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here
  • Famous connections

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