Unlike many churches in the City, St Ethelburga’s escaped damage in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and survived the Second World War virtually unscathed. However, church attendance declined dramatically during the 2oth century. After 50 years as a "Guild Church" in 1991 it was declared redundant, and next year it became a chapel at ease for St Helen's Bishopsgate.
On Saturday 24 April 1993, the IRA detonated a huge lorry bomb right outside St Ethelburga's, destroying 60% the building and causing $1 billion worth of damage, Sinn Fein claims, to commercial property in the surrounding area of Bishopsgate. One person, Ed Henty, was killed and 51 people were injured as they tried to evacuate the area.
The church’s insurance had lapsed three weeks before the bombing, and on April 25th St Ethelburga's was a Grade 1 listed ruin with no money to rebuild it. After reflection and debate, the new Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, over-ruled his advisors and declared a new vision for St Ethelburga's - not a recreation of the old church but the creation of a new type of place - a Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, focusing on the religious dimensions of conflict and on the role which faith communities can play in the resolution of conflict.
A charitable trust was formed in 1997, with the Bishop as Chairman. Other founding Trustees were the late Cardinal Basil Hume, representatives of other Christian traditions, and Viscount Massereene, the Chairman of the Friends of St Ethelburga who had campaigned tirelessly for the church to be restored. An appeal was launched in 1998 which received the support of a large number of organisations and individuals, in the City and beyond. The St Ethelburga’s Trust, an independent charitable company, now owns the building.