the church of St. Helen dates from the 12th century, and a priory of Benedictine nuns was founded there in 1210. It is unusual in that it was designed with two parallel naves, giving it a wide interior. Until the dissolution of the priory in 1538, the church was divided in two by a partition running from east to west, the northern half serving the nuns and the southern the parishioners. It is the only building from a nunnery to survive in the City of London.
The priory had extensive monastic buildings; its hall was later used by the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers until its demolition in 1799. A crypt extended north from the church, under the hall.
St. Helen's was the parish church of William Shakespeare when he lived in the area in the 1590s.
In the 17th century two classical doorcases were added to the otherwise Gothic church.
The building was heavily restored by John Loughborough Pearson between 1891-1893 and reopened on St. John the Baptist's Day, 1893,