Also known as the Church of St Sepulchre-Without-Newgate, this Church is famous for many reasons.
Knights leaving for the Crusades in the 12th Century would set out from the Church, which was originally founded in 1137. Rebuilt in 1450, the Church was damaged in the Fire of London, but still retains its gothic tower, porch and external walls. There is a well-known Musician’s Chapel, and Captain John Smith, one of the founders of Virginia, (who was saved by the Native American Indian Princess, Pocahontas) was buried here in 1631. The bells of this Church, are “the Bells of Old Bailey” in the famous nursery rhyme, “Oranges and Lemons”.
Later, when executions took place outside the Prison, the Church bell would slowly toll when an execution was about to take place. On the night before the execution of a notorious criminal, hundreds of people would sleep on the church steps; many would later watch the hanging from outside the Church. At times, when the crowd of spectators stampeded, the dead or injured would be brought inside. There was once an underground tunnel, which let from the Church to the condemned cell at Newgate Prison. Although this is now bricked up, its entrance in the Church can still be seen. From 1605, on the night before an execution, a priest, taking a hand-bell with him, would visit the condemned prisoners. The priest would ring the bell 12 times and chant: ” All you that in the condemned hole do lie,
Prepare you for tomorrow you shall die;
Watch all and pray: the hour is drawing near
That you before the Almighty must appear;
Examine well yourselves in time repent,
That you may not to eternal flames be sent.
And when St. Sepulchre’s Bell in the morning tolls
The Lord above have mercy on your soul.” The hand bell used for this ancient tradition can still be seen today, hanging next to the bricked up tunnel. In 1554, John Rogers, the Vicar of the church, was imprisoned at Newgate Prison, and the following year he became the first Protestant martyr to be burn at Smithfield by Queen Mary I (also known as Bloody Mary) he is buried in the Church.
According to history they took the Vicar out of the Church and dragged and burned him alive while his wife and daughter watched.
People were a little bitter at that time!!