The stretch of river close by St James was London's most important hythe, landing place, since Saxon times, with garlic, a vital preservative and medicine was unloaded here and traded on Garlick Hill, where the church stands.
The original building, which was first recorded in the 13th century, was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The church was rebuilt under the aegis of Sir Christopher Wren. However St Michael’s was severely damaged during the London Blitz in the Second World War. It was restored between 1966 and 1968.
The church has a steeple from 1713 and fine windows, including the Dick Whittington window, by John Hayward.
In 1423 Richard 'Dick' Whittington, the fabled Lord Mayor of London, was buried within its precincts although the tomb is now lost. There is a memorial tablet to him.
It is now the chapel and headquarters of the Missions to Seamen.