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St Stephen Walbrook

St Stephen Walbrook

Come out and turn right down Cheapside. You can see the Old Jewry sign as the road becomes Poultry.

Old Jewry is the site of the medieval Jewish ghetto. Jews were invited into England from Rouen by William the Conqueror. However, they were banned from owning land and practising trades. They were only allowed to be involved with money-lending and medicine. This left them vulnerable to anti-Semitism and treated as scapegoats. By 1275, persecution had increased and they were forbidden to lend money. In 1290 the whole community was expelled. They took only what they could carry. All their possessions and homes were seized. Jews were invited back in 1656 by Oliver Cromwell.

Cross at the lights into Walbrook. The church is on the left.

Background information

This was Sir Christopher Wren’s own church, as he lived at 15 Walbrook. The copper clad high dome was based on his designs for St Paul’s Cathedral. The white stone altar was designed by Henry Moore. Sir Christopher Wren was a mathematician, and the church’s interior has many geometrical shapes working together to create a beautiful harmony.


Revd. Dr Chad Varah (1911-2007) launched The Samaritans from the crypt of St Stephen Walbrook church on 2nd November 1953. His aim was to “befriend the suicidal and despairing”. The charity was the first 24 hour crisis line. The telephone that Revd Dr Chad Varah used can be seen in a glass cabinet.

There are today 17000 volunteers who now give emotional support to people on the phone, but also by text, email and face to face. Revd. Dr Chad Varah felt the job of the volunteers was to listen, “They are in fact people who cannot bring themselves to pass by on the other side when somebody’s needing them.”

In the tribute book to Chad Varah, people have written:

Amazing and selfless achievement of a life. I know you live on in the hearts of many you touched. A visionary.

When the skies were darkened, you brought light.


  • Which is harder, listening or talking and why?
  • Why did Revd. Dr Chad Varah want The Samaritans not to be seen as a religious organisation?


  • Try listening to a partner speaking about their life and interests for three minutes without interrupting. How did it feel?  Then change roles. List five rules for being a good listener.
  • How does the story of the Good Samaritan link with the organisation?  Role play the biblical story of the Good Samaritan but using the themes of needing support and someone to talk to.

Practical points

Open from 9am – 4pm

St Stephen’s Church
39 Walbrook

020 7626 9000

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