EC3 London

Religious Orders in EC3

In medieval times, four religious orders established sites in this part of the City. The first was the Augustinian house of the Holy Trinity Priory established by Matilda, wife of Henry 1 in 1108 and situated in Aldgate.

This was followed by the Priory of St Helen for Benedictine Nuns in 1210. Today the church of St Helen’s Bishopsgate still survives on the site.

The third, probably in the second half of the 1260s, were the Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross, the Order of the Crutched Friars close to Tower Hill.

Lastly, in 1293 the Abbey of the Minoresses of St Mary of the Order of St Clare were established on a site which today is on the east side of Minories.

Holy Trinity Priory at Aldgate

Founded in 1108, this was the first religious house to be established within the City walls after the Norman Conquest. The priory held the Manor of Portsoken east of the city wall between Aldgate and the Tower of London. The priory was dissolved in 1532.

The land eventually passed into the ownership of Thomas Audley in 1534 before becoming the property of Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk who married Audley’s daughter. Even now, the name ‘Duke’s Place’ lives on within the confines of the old precinct.

Stone remains of Holy Trinity Priory can be seen in the building in 71-77 Leadenhall Street, on the corner of Mitre Street. Some of the remains are visible from the street but at the time of writing (February 2022) the building was not in use.

Trinity Bell

The 16th century tower of the church of St Katherine Cree, Leadenhall Street was part of the former church on the site which itself formed part of Holy Trinity Priory

The Trinity Bell pub on the corner of Mitre Street and Creechurch Lane reminds us of the former priory.

The Benedictine Priory of St Helen
St Helen’s Bishopsgate

This was founded in the early 13th century. A nunnery was established in the grounds of the priory church of St Helen in 1210. In the above photograph of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, the church of the nunnery is on the left-hand side attached to the parish church. Inside are two naves of similar width.

The priory was dissolved in 1538 and in 1543 the Leathersellers Company acquired the convent buildings and the land to the north of the church from Sir Richard Williams, the nephew of Thomas Cromwell. In the church, the nuns choir became part of the parish church and is now incorporated into the building seen there today.

St Helen’s survived both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz but in 1992 an IRA bomb in nearby St Mary Axe caused extensive damage to the roof, stonework and some of the monuments’

Crutched Friars
Crutched Friars

Crutched Friars, the Friars of the Order of the Holy Cross, was founded in the 13th century. They were given permission by King Henry 111 to build an oratory in London and the site chosen, lay to the north of the Tower of London. 

They were a small order of Augustinian Friars from which the street Crutched Friars takes its name.

Henry V111 dissolved the order and in the 1570s a fire destroyed all the buildings.

Crutched Friars street name

On Crutched Friars, at the junction with Rangoon Street, is a wonderful sculpture in Swedish granite by sculptor Michael Black recalling the presence of the order in the area.

The Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare
Abbey of St Clare

The convent was founded by the brother of King Edward 1 and his wife the Queen of Navarre, at Aldgate. 

This was an order of Franciscan women, and the nuns were known as Minoresses remembered today in the street called Minories. 

The order was known as the Poor Clares and suffered closure during Henry V111’s dissolution of the monasteries.

More information:

16 St Clare