St Margaret Pattens Church Entrance

Who was St. Margaret?

Margaret of Antioch was a Christian virgin whose tortures and martyrdom became famous in early books of Acts. According to the legend, she was the daughter of a 3rd or 4th century pagan priest of Antioch who was either thrown out of the house by her father when she converted to Christianity or was converted by her nursemaid. She was noticed by the local prefect who wanted to marry her, but she spurned him and vowed to keep her virginity for Christ. He turned her in to the Roman authorities to be persecuted. In prison she was swallowed by Satan in the form of a dragon, but the cross she was carrying irritated his throat, and he spat her out unharmed.

Her persecutors tried to kill her by fire and by drowning, but each time she survived, converting the growing crowd of onlookers. Finally, she was beheaded, along with her many converts, by Emperor Diocletian (245-313 A.D.). She was buried at Antioch, but her remains were taken later to Italy where they were divided between shrines in Montefiascone and Venice.


Why "Pattens"?

For at least 900 years a church dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch has stood on this site. At least four versions of the church were built; the fourth was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. Wren built the present church between 1684 and 1687. As there were several churches dedicated to St Margaret at the time, some distinctive title was needed. That of “Pattens” was chosen because they were made and sold close to the church.

St Margaret

 

A patten was a type of "undershoe" consisting of a wooden sole fitted with leather straps and mounted on a large metal ring to raise the wearer from the muddy roads. By fastening the shoe on top of this with a leather strap, the wearer could walk through the mud of the City and arrive cleanshod. A pair of pattens

With the paving of the streets, the trade died out and it is thought that the last working pattenmaker died in the 19th century. However, a pattenmaker was still listed in a trade reference in the 1920s. A notice in the church still “requests women to leave their Pattens before entering”.

An alternative theory is that the name commemorates a benefactor, possibly one Ranulf Patin, a canon at St Paul's Cathedral during the mediaeval period.