The Actors’ Church
31 Bedford Street Covent Garden London WC2E 9ED
It’s strictly speaking St Paul’s, but is known to many as ‘the Actors’ Church’. For most visitors, it’s a barely noticed backdrop to street-theatre performances in Covent Garden Piazza, but make your way around the back and you’ll find a delightful little garden that fills up with picnicking office workers on sunny summer lunchtimes. Designed by Inigo Jones, St Paul’s was completed in 1633. The impressive facade that faces the piazza is the Tuscan Portico – Samuel Pepys saw a performance of Punch & Judy here in 1662, while in 1665 the churchyard received the first known victim of the Great Plague. St Paul’s escaped the next year’s Great Fire, but was badly damaged by a blaze in 1795. Its role as ‘the Actors’ Church’ began with the founding of the Theatre Royal in nearby Drury Lane in 1663, and was cemented when what’s now the Royal Opera House opened sixty years later. Famous thespians whose ashes are laid to rest here include dames Ellen Terry and Edith Evans, while the interior walls hold plaques to luminaries ranging from Vivien Leigh to Noel Coward, and Charlie Chaplin to Boris Karloff. The church also hosts regular concerts, most notably by the resident Orchestra of St Pauls.