The church of St. Mary-le-Bow in London sits halfway between St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Bank of England, on the historic road known as Cheapside. The church is widely accepted by many Londoners as being the true centre of London: tradition indicates that in order to be a true “Cockney” (Londoner), one must have been born within the sound of the church bells. This seems like a fairly narrow area, but without modern traffic or modern buildings, the sound of the bells would originally have been heard up to five miles away. In modern times, with the huge change in residential areas of London, the term “Cockney” is now more specifically applied to Londoners from the East End.
There has been a church on the site for over 1,400 years and despite the comparatively small size of the interior, the tower – housing twelve bells – reaches high above the street next to which it sits. The church has long been of high importance in the City – deemed second in importance after St. Paul’s Cathedral – and it was for this reason that it was one of the first to be re-built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London, between 1671 and 1680.
(Other famous places of worship, such as Westminster Abbey, which one would imagine should be more highly rated, lie outside the original medieval walled City of London; hence the distinction.)