The Life of Ceolfrith (written shortly after that saint’s death in 716) mentions him visiting the monastery at Icanho. In this document we find the first recorded mention of an Abbot in East Anglia named ‘Botuulf a man of outstanding life and learning, and one filled by the grace of the Holy Spirit.’ According to the later Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Botolph first began to build the church (or mynster) there in 653. Little else is known of his life, and – with its destruction during the Viking raids in the 9 th century – even the exact location of Icanho is disputed.
In the 11th century, his bones were divided into three parts with one part going to Westminster. Whether this ‘translation’ of his bones from Suffolk to London explains the number of church dedications to St Botolph along the potential route (including here at Aldgate) is conjecture. Holy Trinity Priory in Aldgate, however, had been founded by St Botolph’s Priory in Colchester, and its first prior had originally served there. It may therefore simply be that our dedication was fixed when Aldgate Priory took control of the church in 1125.
Botolph was seen as a patron of fields and crops, and of markets and fairs, as well as of cattle. (Aldgate’s ‘Blood Alley’ historically was home to a thriving cattle butchery trade.) More recently, however, he has become viewed as a patron of travellers, possibly suggested by the London Churches dedicated to him being sited ‘without’ (or outside) of Aldgate, Bishopsgate and Aldersgate, and also (until destroyed by the Great Fire) by Billingsgate.
St Botolph’s Feast Day is kept on 17 June, and the feast of the Translation of his relics was kept on 1 December.