St Olave’s, Literary London
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This post is intended for use with the Literary London walking tour and smart learning activities.

This was the parish church of Samuel Pepys, the celebrated Restoration diarist whose account of life in London in the period 1660-1669 gives us a first-hand impression of the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666. Because the diaries were private and not intended for publication they also offer us an extraordinary insight into the habits, passions and interests of Pepys’s time, and open up a world of court intrigue, society ambition, naval politics and the trials and pleasure of domestic life.

Late commonwealth, Restoration. Church dedications to St Olave suggest the presence of Scandinavian traders in London. 13th c. crypt wall. Gateway 1658. Church gutted in 1941. Pepys built a gallery door in south wall for Navy Office worshippers. Note also the bust of Pepys’s wife Elizabeth,1669, in the interior to the upper left of the altar, looking towards where her husband would have sat in the gallery.

Point of Interest: The Ship, Pevsner, ‘most enjoyable late Victorian pub exterior’, 1887.


Aspects of this place to think about

Note the age of the church relative to its neighbouring buildings. Pepys was employed at the Naval Office on Seething Lane and you can see his bust in the park nearby where the office was located. Think about the strategic location of Pepys’s house to the Naval Office by the river and the Tower, and the distance from this location to other places important to Church and Court: St Paul’s, the Palace of Westminster, and to the naval dockyards further east at Greenwich and Deptford. Pepys would have moved between these locations all the time. How long would it take you to get to these places now? How long would it have taken Pepys in the 1660s?

Sense the changing history of this building and imagine who might have visited and why they came here. Investigate activities that may have occurred and times in history that this building offered sanctuary.

  • Visitors: rich and poor
  • Civil War puritanism vs Restoration freedoms
  • Historical events important to this church
  • Buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666
  • Modern economy of the City of London and its expression in architecture

Content available at the location, about the  place or area

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/ Geofenced smart learning, AR doctoral research, UoM, 2017-20, P Lister.