A Flame in St Bride’s Churchyard
The Footprints Team were intrigued by this small statue (one of a pair) in the churchyard of St Bride’s Fleet Street
The answer is that they are the tops of the urns that decorated the parapet of the tower. St Bride’s famous wedding cake spire has had a huge amount of work done in the last couple of years, replacing stonework that has been battered by years of London weather. The urns were also very poorly repaired after the huge damage of World War Two, due mainly to the shortage of building materials. As a result the tops of the urns were in poor repair and replaced by a new copy, the originals being placed in the churchyard.
But why the flame motif? St Bride has long had an association with flame – there having been a Celtic goddess called Brigid who was associated with fire. St Brigit (the alternative spelling for St Bride) is often referred to as St Brigid of the Kindly Flame, and depicted holding an ever burning lamp.
Sir Christopher Wrens St Bride’s church rose from the ashes of the Great Fire of London – could the flames be a reference to that? Possibly, though a flame rising from an urn is a common motif in the classical architecture of that era. The urns themselves have grotesque mask-faces. This raises the possibility they were designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, who was working as Wren’s assistant on the church. Hawksmoor was a lover of symbolism so its just possible the flaming urn lids may be a reference to the Great Fire.
Thanks to Simon Bradley for helping with this mystery.
You can find out more of Fascinating Fleet Street on Brian’s walk on Sunday 25th May