Walking the City of London

Category: Religion Page 1 of 2

Where Maggie wed Denis – a visit to Wesley’s Chapel.

Wesley’s Chapel on City Road was first opened in 1778 by John Wesley (1703-1791) as a home base for his fast growing network of churches and societies which eventually became the Methodist Church (EC1Y 1AU).

The house where he lived during his later years is next door. Here’s the view of the house from Bunhill Burial Ground where Wesley’s mother is buried. He could see her grave from his bedroom window on the second floor …

Here he is depicted visiting the grave in 1779 …

The original marker has now been replaced by one with a much shorter inscription …

This part of Bunhill is not open to the public.

There are dozens of memorials within the Chapel, along with 18 magnificent stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes. Although it’s an active house of worship, it is open to the public during the week and many visitors come to see the place where Wesley preached and lived and last week I became one of them.

This window shows Sir Galahad overcoming the seven deadly sins and, through his victory, building the City of God. Sir Galahad is the patron saint of the Wesley Guild, which, when founded, was seen as a modern youth movement …

Here is a small selection of other glass you can admire …

This window gives thanks for the fact that the chapel escaped damage during the Second World War …

At either end of the vestibule there are two windows by Mark Cazalet. One shows God as fire …

And the other God as water …

The view from the balcony …

Margaret Thatcher (then Margaret Roberts) married Denis Thatcher here on 13 December 1951 and both their children were christened here. She donated the communion rail in 1993 …

The War memorial …

Old Boys’ Brigade flag …

The Brigade is still going strong and now welcomes girls as members. Have a look at their very lively website here.

A seat in the Foundery Chapel. ‘Primitive’ meant ‘simple’ or ‘relating to an original stage’; the Primitive Methodists saw themselves as practising a purer form of Christianity, closer to the earliest Methodists …

I strongly recommend a visit to the museum …

And the shop, where you can pick up a tasteful memento of your visit …

Wesley’s tomb is behind the Chapel …

In the basement of the Chapel there is a beautifully preserved Victorian lavatory dating from 1899. It’s a shrine to Thomas Crapper – the champion of the flushing toilet and inventor of the ballcock …

Unfortunately it was closed when I visited but you can, however, read about it and see more images in the Gentle Author’s blog At God’s Convenience.

The Chapel and the Museum are wonderful places to visit and this blog really doesn’t do them justice so do call in if you get the chance.

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Another visit to St Bride’s – lockable coffins and snoring churchgoers.

Walking down Ludgate Hill the other day I grabbed this quick picture of St Bride’s because there were also some nice fluffy clouds in the frame …

It occurred to me then that the church, with its famous ‘wedding cake’ steeple, had been extremely fortunate not to be now obscured by the extensive post-war development that took place in the City as it very gradually recovered from the War. Someone working in the City at the turn of the 20th century would have recognised both the church and the building in front of it.

This sent me in search of some other images. Here’s the view from a bit further up Ludgate Hill …

Here is a view from the hill in the 1940s from a postcard series called London Under Fire

I decided to visit St Bride’s again taking this picture as I approached the entrance door …

The church is surrounded by buildings so this print from 1753 is interesting since one can get a sense of its full scale as seen from the outside and its position relative to St Paul’s Cathedral …

I crossed St Bride’s Avenue, a narrow passageway that runs between the church and the buildings on the southern side of Fleet Street …

This is the view from the east end. The Old bell Tavern dates from the 1670s …

The church was gutted in the Blitz but was very sympathetically restored and reopened in 1957. Here are the ruins shortly after the bombing …

The interior we see today is loyal to Wren’s core design. Everything, however, including floor, all wooden structures, roof etc. is from the 1950s and later refurbishments …

Looking west, St Bride is commemorated in the statue on the left …

She was born in AD 453, a contemporary of St Patrick. The church’s association with St Bride (St Brigid of Kildare) may date back to the sixth century and is the only church on the east side of England to bear this dedication. She died on 1st February AD 525, and was buried with the remains of Ireland’s two other patron saints, Patrick and Columba. Her saint’s day continues to be celebrated on this date. You can read more about her and the church’s history here.

The royal arms weigh two tons and are carved from a block of Beer stone …

The eagle lectern was, according to tradition, rescued from the medieval church during the Great Fire of London in 1666 …

There are two ‘charity scholars’ tucked away in a corner . They originally stood outside St Bride’s Charity School in Bride’s Lane. …

Just above their heads is a small bust carved by Clare Waterhouse, replacing an earlier marble carving by Marjorie Meggit …

It represents Virginia Dare, the first recorded European child to be born in North America. Her parents had been married here before sailing to Roanoke in 1587 but what became of Virginia and the other colonists remains a mystery.

St Bride’s has a long association with the print trade and journalism, dating back to around 1500 when the printing press of Wynkyn de Worde was established near the church. This association grew with the rise of Fleet Street as a centre of journalism and the newspaper industry. There are a number of memorials to journalists killed, imprisoned or just missing in conflicts around the world and I have written more extensively about these in last week’s blog.

I headed downstairs to the fascinating museum in the crypt …

As I descended I remembered that the crowded burial chambers below the church were rediscovered by preparatory excavations in 1953. The crypts were found to contain the remains of 227 individually identified people interred since the 17th century, as well as an estimated 7000 human remains in the more communal charnel house, where bones removed from the cemetery during the Middle Ages (in order to make room for new burials) were arranged according to type (skulls with skulls, femurs with femurs, etc.) and laid out in a checkerboard pattern to an as-yet unknown depth …

There are guided tours to see the charnel house but I’ve decided to pass on that for the time being.

And so to the museum.

Until well into the 18th century the only source of corpses for medical research was the public hangman and supply was never enough to satisfy demand. As a result, a market arose to satisfy the needs of medical students and doctors and this was filled by the activities of the so-called ‘resurrection men’ or ‘body snatchers’. Some churches built watchtowers for guards to protect the churchyard, but these were by no means always effective – earning between £8 and £14 a body, the snatchers had plenty of cash available for bribery purposes.

One answer was a coffin that would be extremely difficult to open and such an invention was patented by one Edward Bridgman of Goswell Road in 1818. It was made of iron with spring clips on the lid and the coffin on display fulfils the patent …

A contemporary advertisement – secure coffins were not cheap …

As a nearby information panel points out, the idea was not popular with the clergy and in 1820 the churchwardens at St Andrew’s Holborn refused churchyard burial to an iron coffin. The body was taken out and buried, which led to a law suit. The judgment was that such coffins could not be refused but, since they took so much longer than wooden ones to disintegrate, much higher fees could be charged. This no doubt contributed to the relatively short time iron coffining was used.

A collection of grave markers …

Early walls and foundations …

I think some of the explanatory panels are little works of art in their own right …

Terrifying times …

An amusing anecdote …

There are some interesting inscriptions at the east end of the church. 1702 was when the steeple was being completed …

Presumably these people are interred in the vaults below …

I hope you enjoyed today’s effort. I am indebted to the London Inheritance blog for some of the illustrations.

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A quick visit to St Bride’s. A tribute to the bravery of the men and women who bring us the news.

St Bride’s Fleet Street is a lovely church, particularly recognisable by its ‘wedding cake’ steeple …

It was totally gutted during the war …

But beautifully restored in the 1950s in a way which closely resembled Sir Christopher Wren’s original design …

St Bride’s has a long association with the print trade and journalism, dating back to around 1500 when the printing press of Wynkyn de Worde was established near the church. This association grew with the rise of Fleet Street as a centre of journalism and the newspaper industry and the association remains strong despite the exit of the profession from the area.

If you watch TV news today, or listen to a radio report, chances are these will be from a journalist and their support staff in Ukraine, kitted out in protective gear. Those who report from war zones run a very real risk of injury or death, and those who have been lost in previous wars are commemorated in St Bride’s, including this memorial to those who lost their lives whilst covering the 2003 Iraq war …

Particularly moving is the Journalists’ Altar, commemorating those within the profession who have died, are held hostage or have an unknown fate …

Unfortunately, there are too many to display at any one time, so the photos are rotated …

As I write, at least seven journalists have been killed while covering the war in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24. A record is kept by the Committee to Protect Journalists whose website gives full details.

There is a lot more to see at St Bride’s, including a great little museum, and I shall report back next week. I felt that this week’s blog should just be a thoughtful one.

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St Dunstan-in-the-East – a peaceful place named after an extraordinary man.

I’ve already written in some detail about the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West so I thought it would be good, given last week’s lovely weather, to visit the ruins of St Dunstan-in-the-East. Dunstan (c. 909 – 19 May 988) was an extraordinary man being successively Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s not surprising, therefore, that in Greater London there are seven churches dedicated to him as well as seventeen roads and three educational establishments.

His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church. His 11th-century biographer states that Dunstan was skilled in ‘making a picture and forming letters’, as were other clergy of his age who reached senior rank. At least one example of his work survives …

This is from the manuscript known as the Glastonbury Classbook. It’s a portrait of Christ, and the monk kneeling beside him may be a self-portrait of Dunstan.

He served as an important minister of state to several English kings and was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil by grabbing his nose in a pair of hot tongs …

If you want to read even more about St Dunstan I highly recommend The Clerk of Oxford blog.

And so to the remains of the church named after him.

The original church (dating from around 1100) was severely damaged in the Great Fire of 1666 after which it was patched up and a steeple with a needle spire added, to the design of Sir Christopher Wren, between 1695 and 1701. In 1817, structural problems were identified and these led to the church being demolished. Wren’s tower was considered safe and was retained and incorporated into the new building which was completed in 1821.

Here’s St Dunstan’s in 1910 …

The church was partly destroyed in the Blitz of 1941. Wren’s tower and steeple survived the bombs’ impact but of the rest of the church only the north and south walls remained …

Following the War it was decided not to rebuild St Dunstan’s and in 1967 the City of London Corporation chose to turn the ruins into a public garden which opened in 1971. A lawn and trees were planted in the ruins, with a low fountain in the middle of the nave which is still happily bubbling away …

It’s a lovely, serene location to visit. Here are the images I took last Friday when I had the place almost entirely to myself …

You can get an idea of the ferocity of Blitz fires from the scorch marks on some of the church’s stone walls. Incendiary bombs were dropped in conjunction with high explosives …

Three old headstones have survived with inscriptions that are partially legible along with a flatstone. I have identified them from the excellent audit of churchyard inscriptions carried out by Percy Rushen in 1911.

Here are the entries in Percy’s book :

And here are the stones. First Thomas Sanders …

Then his mum and dad, Thomas and Elizabeth …

And then the Taynton family …

This is the flatstone, and I assume that it doesn’t appear in Percy’s audit because it was originally inside the church …

The pigeons and the weather have not been kind to it but I believe it reads as follows:

‘Here lies the body of Capt. NICHOLAS BATCHELER late of this parish who departed this life December 31st 1722 (possibly 1732) aged 60 years also three children, two sons one daughter, Thomas, William and Anne.

And also Anne a granddaughter of Elizabeth Batcheler.

Also the body of Mary his wife who departed this life July the 20th 1723 aged 58 years.

Also here lyeth the body of Anne Blackall a Beloved Relation.’

I have been able to identify most of the inscription because it appears in a lovely little film about the garden which you can access here on YouTube.

I find it very satisfying bringing these old stones to life and paying a kind of respect to their subjects, even though their mortal remains are long since gone.

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‘True Hearts and Warm Hands’ at St Margaret Lothbury.

After the Great Fire of London of 1666 St Margaret’s was rebuilt by Christopher Wren between 1683 and 1692. As some churches around St Margaret’s were demolished under the 1860 Union of Benefices Act, St Margaret’s benefited from acquiring some of the interior furnishings of these buildings. The church now houses an outstanding collection of seventeenth century fittings, many by the sculptor and wood carver Grinling Gibbons. It is one of the few Wren churches that sustained only minor damage during the Second World War.

In 1698–9 the top stage of the tower with large belfry openings and all of the spire were added and this work was probably designed by Robert Hooke. Hooke was Surveyor to the City of London and chief assistant to Christopher Wren, in which capacity he helped Wren rebuild London after the Great Fire.

The church and tower (EC2R 7HH).

The baptismal font, believed to be by Grinling Gibbons (1648–1721), came from St Olave, Old Jewry, after that church was partially demolished in 1887. The font is a carved bowl with cherub heads at each corner and the sides are decorated with Adam and Eve, the dove returning to the ark, the baptism of Jesus and the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip.

Of the subsequent additions to the church the most splendid is the choir screen, one of only two in a Wren church, erected originally in the Church of All Hallows the Great, Thames St. in 1683-84 …

The screen, along with the tester above the pulpit, was moved to St Margaret’s in 1894 when the Church of All Hallows the Great was demolished, to allow widening of Thames Street and building of the City of London Brewery on the site.

The tester above the pulpit.

The Stuart royal arms are part of the screen which was originally donated by the German merchant Theodore Jacobson in c.1685. The eagle is supposed to refer to Herr Jacobson’s nationality …

The lovely stained glass windows celebrate St Margaret’s links with a number of City Livery Companies and Institutions. The windows were donated by either the Livery Companies or their Masters.

The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London – True hearts and warm hands

The Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers’ motto is Amore Sitis Uniti, Latin for Be United in Love (rather sweet!) …

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. The phrase Recte Numerare means to reckon or number rightly in Latin …

The Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers : In God is all our trust, let us never be confounded.

The Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers. The motto Sine Nobis Scientia Languet Knowledge cannot flourish without us – reflects the fundamental role the craft has played in the achievement of science over the past centuries …

The Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers. The Company’s present Coat of Arms was granted in 1709 and incorporates the former arms of the Armourers granted in 1556 with a new coat for the Brasiers. The two mottos are Make All Sure for the Armourers, and We are one for the joint Company. ‘Put on the whole armour of God’ …

There’s much more to see at St Margaret’s so I shall return.

Incidentally, if you are passing near the Royal Exchange check out Paparazzi Dogs

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Another stroll through Bunhill Burial Ground.

I was astonished to find that it has been well over four years since I wrote in detail about Bunhill so earlier this week, when the sun was in exactly the right place, I decided to take some pictures and write about it again.

I thought I’d show you the pictures first and then re-publish details of the area’s fascinating history. Around 120,000 people are believed to have been buried here and about 2,500 monuments survive.

The gentleman whose face is looking out from the obelisk is the Calvinistic Methodist minister, poet and Bible commentator James Hughes …

It’s a bit spooky sideways on …

Sadly many of the memorials have deteriorated over the years due to wear and tear and pollution …

But some inscriptions survive. I was very taken with this marker for the grave of Reverend Joseph Cartwright who died on 5th November 1800 at the age of 72 …

It seems to me that he composed the poem engraved on the stone himself (sadly the last few lines are obliterated). Here it is …

What if death may sleep provide

Should I be of death afraid.

What if beams of opening day

Shine around my breathless clay.

Tender friends a while may mourn

Me from their embraces torn.

Dearer better friends I have

In the realm beneath the grave.

I have written before about some of the more famous memorials but here are a few of them again.

There is the extraordinary tomb of Dame Mary Page …

It appears that Mary Page suffered from what is now known as Meigs’ Syndrome and her body had to be ‘tap’d’ to relieve the pressure. She had to undergo this treatment for over five years and was so justifiably proud of her bravery and endurance she left instructions in her will that her tombstone should tell her story. And it does …

Further on is John Bunyan’s tomb of 1689. It is not quite what it seems since the effigy of the great man and the bas-reliefs (inspired by Pilgrim’s Progress) were only added in 1862 when the tomb was restored. A preacher who spent over a decade in jail for his beliefs, he holds the bible in his left hand. He started the Christian allegory Pilgrim’s Progress whilst imprisoned and it became one of the most published works in the English language.

Bunhill is a nice place for a quiet spot of lunch …

William Blake’s final resting place was once lost but the present day Blake Society finally traced where it was. In August 2018 a beautiful stone was placed there exactly 191 years after his death …

Here’s some Bunhill history for those of you who might be interested.

The history of the land is fascinating. Owned by the Dean & Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral between 1514 and 1867, it was continuously leased to the City Corporation who themselves sub-leased it to others. The name Bunhill seems to have been a corruption of the word Bonehill.  Theories range from people being interred there during Saxon times to the suggestion that various types of refuse, including animal bones from Smithfield, were disposed of there. However, an extraordinary event in 1549 made the name literally true.

Since the 13th century corpses had been buried in St Paul’s churchyard just long enough for the flesh to rot away, after which the bones were placed in a nearby Charnel House ‘to await the resurrection of the dead’. After the Reformation this was seen as an unacceptable Popish practice, the Charnel House was demolished, and 1,000, yes 1,000, cartloads of bones were dumped at Bunhill. A City Golgotha, it is said the the resulting hill was high enough to accommodate three windmills.

In 1665 it was designated a possible ‘plague pit’ but there is no evidence that it was used as such. At the same time, however, a crisis arose concerning St Paul’s, the ‘noisome stench arising from the great number of dead’ buried there. Many other parishes had the same problem and the Mayor and Aldermen were forced to act quickly as a terrible smell of putrefaction was permeating the City. After negotiations with the existing tenants, the ‘new burial place in Bunhill Fields’ was created and had been walled in by the 19th October that year with gates being added in 1666.

The Act of Uniformity of 1663 had established the Church of England as the national church and at the same time established a distinct category of Christian believers who wished to remain outside the national church. These became known as the nonconformists or dissenters and Bunhill became for many of them the burial ground of choice due to its location outside the City boundary and its independence from any Established place of worship.

The last burial took place in January 1854 and the area was designated as a public park with some memorials being removed and some restored or relocated. Heavy bombing during the war resulted in major landscaping work and the northern part was cleared of memorials and laid out much as it is now with grassy areas and benches.

Across City Road you can see the house where the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, once lived. I hope to write about it soon …

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Smithfield stories (some a bit gruesome).

A few years ago I became intrigued by a particular pub name – the Bishops Finger …

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For a while, this was the signage …

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But, after a bit of research, I realised that this wasn’t a very good representation of what people used to call ‘a bishop’s finger’.

It actually referred to the shape of the hand when giving a blessing. Here is a stained glass representation of Jesus Christ giving the gesture …

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The present day sign gives the clue to its original slang meaning …

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Yes, it’s a finger post indicating directions.

Not to be confused, of course, with the Vulcan Greeting …

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‘Live long and prosper!’

Incidentally, the Bishops Finger name dates from 1981. The pub had been purchased by Shepherd Neame in the 1970s, and the change in name was to name the pub after one of their leading beers. The pub had originally been called the Rutland and had also been the Rutland Hotel.

For centuries Smithfield (or smooth field) was a place of execution where many suffered terribly for their beliefs, one of the most famous being William Wallace, ‘Braveheart’ in the movie of that name. Two plaques commemorate him and his execution. This one is facing the street, its railings often adorned with flowers and Scottish flags …

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Translations from the Latin: I tell you the truth. Freedom is what is best. Sons, never live life like slaves. And the Gaelic: Death and Victory, an old Scottish battle cry.

The other is quite discreet and you’ll find it on the wall just inside the entrance to the churchyard of St Bartholomew the Great …

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Wallace, manacled, stands upright and proud awaiting what looks like decapitation with an axe, a basket ready to catch his head when the deed is done. The noose that he glances at, however, indicates a different fate and decapitation would have been decidedly merciful. The plaque is, therefore, a little misleading.

Having been sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, Wallace was first dragged naked behind a horse from the Tower of London to Smithfield, being jeered and booed by onlookers the whole way. He was hanged but cut down before dead after which the rest of the gruesome sentence was carried out. There is no record of any last words. Parts of his body were sent to Newcastle, Berwick, Perth and Stirling for public display. Wallace’s head, meanwhile, was dipped in tar and set on a spike on London bridge, ‘a grisly reminder of King Edward’s justice’.

No contemporary image of how he looked exists but we do know how Mel Gibson portrayed him …

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There’s a great article in The Scotsman newspaper about Wallace and the myths surrounding him and you can read it here.

Almost adjacent to Wallace’s memorial is the one to Protestant martyrs, erected in 1870 by the Protestant Alliance London. …

A few feet from this spot, more than 60 Protestants were burned at the stake, mainly in the reign of Queen Mary (1553-1558), hence they are known as the Marian Martyrs …

Through Mary’s short reign at least 277 persons were burnt, including five bishops, twenty one clergymen, eight gentlemen, eighty four tradesmen, one hundred husband-men and servants, fifty five women, and four children.

Nearby, the Hand and Shears Pub boasts of offering ‘Last Ales before Newgate Public Executions’. The pub’s name relates to the cloth workers who would gather here ahead of the ancient Bartholomew Fair …

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Here it is in 1952 … …

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Here’s the signage in close up …

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The Justices Licence refers to the Alehouse Act of 1552 which defined in law that it was illegal to sell beer or ale without the consent of the local Justices of the Peace. This was the first time that a licence was required to sell beer and ale and was an attempt to address the drunkenness and disorder that was being caused by the widespread availability of alcohol.

The Act required that each person granted a licence was responsible for maintaining good behavior at their premises and any problems could result in a fine or loss of licence. From the sign it appears that the Hand and Shears was granted a licence in 1552.

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Here’s the pub in 1852, the year the present building dates from …

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Its predecessor in 1811 …

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As is often the case, you’ll find more fascinating detail about the pub and its history in the brilliant London Inheritance blog.

The lovely Sir John Betjeman lived nearby at 43 Cloth Fair …

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Walk into the adjacent Cloth Court and look up. Near Sir John’s blue plaque you’ll see a wonderful Trompe-l’œil painting The Sailor’s Home Coming

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When the next door neighbours bought Betjeman’s flat, intending to rent it out, they had this window bricked up to give themselves more privacy. However, they found they didn’t like staring at a wall. So they got the mural and stained glass artist Brian Thomas (some of whose work can still be seen in St Paul’s Cathedral) to create the Sailor’s Home Coming Window in order to give them something to look at …

Unfortunately it’s rather difficult to see from the street but it has been described as follows : A happy re-union in which a ruddy faced sailor, freshly returned from his travels, is welcomed back into the bosom of his family. His children hug him enthusiastically, whilst an exotic songbird, perhaps a souvenir of an earlier voyage to some far flung corner of the Globe, wobbles unsteadily over the whole harmonious scene.

Sir John’s old flat is available to rent. You can find more details here.

Live long and prosper!

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A painful arrow wound and a ‘beloved’ pair of bankers. More tales from St Giles.

Last week I looked back at St Giles in the period immediately after the Second World war. Over the last few days I’ve been looking for much earlier images.

Here it is in 1739 in a picture from the British Museum archive described as: View of the church from the graveyard; one of the churches to escape the Great Fire. 1739. Etching and engraving

Now forward to 1815 in a painting by George Shepherd …

And another entitled St.Giles Cripplegate, Fore Street engraved by J.Henshall after a picture Shepherd (published in London in the Nineteenth Century, 1831) …

The church now (on a wet and windy day!) …

The churchyard and its graves suffered terribly in the Blitz and the old grave stones have been incorporated into low level seating

Some inscriptions still just about legible. For example, the deaths in the Williams family, recorded over the years 1802 to 1840, give typical examples of the high incidence of child mortality …

Let’s go inside now and have a look around.

There are a number of modern stained glass windows. In the baptistery is the Cripplegate Window, which celebrates the centenary of the Cripplegate Foundation www.cripplegate.org which gives grants, advice and support to local organisations. The Foundation was formally established in 1891 but its origins lie in gifts made to St Giles’ for the poor and the needy dating back centuries. John Sworder made the first recorded gift in his will, dated 2 April 1500, and the head at the top of the window represents him, the first of the pious donors of the parish that we know by name …

On the north wall is a memorial window to Edward Alleyn, the parish’s generous benefactor. The design is the work of John Lawson of stained glass studio Goddard & Gibbs and depicts Alleyn in the centre, as well as the Fortune Theatre (which he founded), almshouses (which he built in the parish and which were destroyed in the Second World War), and St Luke’s Church, Old Street …

Monuments include one to John Speed. He was born at Farndon in Cheshire in 1552 and followed his father’s trade as a tailor until nearly fifty. He lived in London (probably in Moorfields) and his wife Susanna bore him twelve sons and six daughters! His passion in life, however, was not tailoring; from his early years he was a keen amateur historian and map maker, producing maps for the Queen and the Merchant Tailors Company, of which he was a Freeman. He joined the Society of Antiquaries and in 1597 his interests came to the attention of Sir Fulke Greville, who subsequently gave Speed an allowance for his research. As a reward for his earlier efforts, Queen Elizabeth granted him the use of a room in the Custom House …

Here’s his map of England (note the Irish Sea, the British Sea and the German Ocean!)…

The oldest monument is that of Thomas Busby. A 19th century guide to the church describes him and his memorial as follows …

… a rich cooper who died in 1575. His painted figure shows him in a black coat, his face full of benevolence, and his epitaph tells us that he gave the poor of Cripplegate every year four loads of the best charcoal and 40 dozen loaves.

Alas the Blitz ensured that only his bust with its benevolent face remains …

In the main body of the church, attached to a pillar on the right, is a sword rest, replacing one destroyed during the Second World War. Its function is to house the ceremonial swords carried on state occasions. This one contains the coats-of-arms of the five Aldermen of Cripplegate who became Lord Mayors of London, including Sir John Baddeley, Sir Peter Studd and Sir Allan Davis …

Nearby there is also a lovely 19th century brass lectern created in memory of Lancelot Andrewes …..

The East Window was designed by Gerald Smith of the Nicholson Studios, a London-based stained glass studio, which made the window in 1960. The firm’s output covered the years of restoration following both World Wars.
The work follows the pattern of the medieval window, of which traces came to light as a result of war damage. The design incorporates many figures of historical significance to the church, as well as the instruments of the crucifixion at the top …

St Giles is there, of course. He is traditionally depicted with a hind and there are various stories as to why that should be so. According to a 10th-century biography, Giles was an Athenian from a wealthy family who gave away his inherited wealth, fled to France and made himself a hermitage in a forest near the mouth of the Rhone, where, we are told, he lived on herbs and the milk of a hind. This retreat was finally discovered by the hunters of the King of the Franks, who had pursued the hind to its place of refuge. An arrow shot at the deer wounded Giles instead, as he put out his hand to protect the deer and was himself speared by the arrow …

Part of the medieval church can be still be seen on the right of the window, where it has been deliberately exposed for visitors to see. Here is the sedilia, where the priests sat, and the piscine, used for washing communion vessels. The tiles in the arch here are of Roman origin …

The Roman tiles …

The west window was designed by the Faircraft Studios and installed in 1968. In the centre is the coat-of-arms of the City of London, which is flanked on its left by the coat-of-arms of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and on its right by that of the Bishop of London. In the lower frame, from left to right, are the coats-of-arms of Robert Glover, Somerset Herald of Arms in the reign of Henry VIII, who was buried in the church; of John Milton; of the Earls of Bridgewater; Oliver Cromwell, and Sir Martin Frobisher. There were ten Earls of Bridgewater and three Earls of Kent buried in the church …

Nearby is this plaque dedicated to a pair of twins ‘respected and beloved by all who knew them’ …

They were joint secretaries to the Cripplegate Savings Bank …

Established in 1819, it became the Cripplegate Bank Limited in 1879. Renamed again in 1900 as London, Commercial & Cripplegate Bank Ltd it was acquired by the Union Bank of London Limited later in the same year (and was eventually swallowed up by NatWest).

As you leave you can say ‘goodbye’ to St Giles. He’s just above the north door, hind at his side. You can also see the scorch marks from the incendiary bombs dropped during the Blitz when even the stone caught fire …

He is depicted with a crutch, as it is thought he was lame …

I am indebted to the really helpful History section of the St Giles website for much of the blog. I strongly recommend you visit it, if only to watch the fascinating YouTube film of the City ruins in 1956.

If you walk around to the south side of the church you will see this odd commemorative stone …

What was the mistake that had to be erased? Maybe it originally referred to the ‘west’ or ‘east’ front when it should correctly have referred to ‘the front’!

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Another visit to Southwark Cathedral.

In last week’s blog I wrote about the memorial on Borough High Street to the 344 members of St Saviour’s Parish who lost their lives in the First World War. Next year it will be one hundred years since the memorial was funded by public subscription. The £4,000 raised also allowed a bronze memorial plaque by Sir John Ninian Comper to be erected in the Cathedral. Here it is …

You can read the names on the memorial here. Some families clearly lost more than one member (for example, there are two Pluckroses listed) and a few look like they may have lost three (for example G.Field, F.Field senr, F.Field jnr).

The Cathedral is home to many lavish, elaborate monuments, but the four most simple ones stayed in my mind the longest. The first was this tribute to little 10 year old Susanna Barford who died in 1652 …

A VIRGIN PURE NOT STAIN’D BY CARNALL LUST
SUCH GRACE THE KING OF KINGS BESTOWD UPON HER
THAT NOW SHEE LIVES WITH HIM A MAID OF HONOUR
HER STAGE WAS SHORT HER THREAD WAS QUICKLY SPUNN
DRAWNE OUT, AND CUTT GOTT HEAVEN, HER WORKE WAS DONE
THIS WORLD TO HER WAS BUT A TRAGED PLAY
SHEE CAME AND SAW’T DISLIK’T AND PASS’D AWAY.

The second was where Shakespeare buried his younger brother Edmund, an actor aged just twenty-seven in 1607, at the cost of twenty shillings ‘with a forenoone knell of the great bell.

Thirdly, this child’s parents wanted to record the exact duration of her short life …

And finally, an unflinching portrayal of death with a very succinct epitaph …

William Emerson, who ‘lived and died an honest man’ in 1575 aged 92. He is said in some guides to be an ancestor of Ralph Waldo Emerson. You can read more about the Emerson family in the great London Inheritance blog entitled Emerson Stairs, Bankside.

Now something much more flamboyant, a memorial to Joyce, Lady Clerke, paid for by her son William, from her first marriage to James Austin. …

Carved along the bottom on the pediment are the words Vos Estis Dei Agricultura (You are the Agriculture of God). The central section shows standing corn behind which rises a rock on which a golden angel stands, pointing upwards to a golden sunburst on the wall above. Down the rock a stream runs, and a serpent twines itself around the rock. On either side sit life-sized figures of harvesters in attitudes of mourning, wearing smocks and wheaten hats; a rake and pitchfork are propped against their knees. Click here for a more complete description and notes on the symbolism.

This monument shows Alderman Richard Humble, and his two wives Elizabeth and Isabel, kneeling in prayer …

It’s is a typical example of the ‘Southwark School’ of monuments made by a group of Flemish refugee sculptors who lived and worked on Bankside. The area around the Cathedral has a long tradition of accepting refugees into the community. Incidentally, the banner in the background is an art installation by Mark Titchner which declares ‘Please believe these days will pass‘.

A generous epitaph: Had Kings a power to lend their subjects breath, Trehearne thou shouldst not be cast down by death …

So Trehearne, who died in 1618, was obviously a much respected servant of King James I, whose loss was keenly felt. The role of Gentleman Porter to the King was one of great responsibility and honour. It meant that John Trehearne kept the ‘keys of the castle’ and was responsible for opening and closing the gates and for the safe passage of all those that passed through. He and his wife Mary are ‘supported’ by their children …

John Bingham, saddler and Vestryman, was instrumental in founding the parish school. He died in 1625 …

Sir Frederick Wigan was a wealthy hop merchant and the first Treasurer of the newly created Cathedral in 1905 …

You may recall that I wrote about the hop trade in last week’s blog.

Richard Blisse wears a fine full-bottomed wig ..

… a most affectionate husband, his wife Elizabeth, out of a just sense of her loss hath caused this monument to be erected as ye lasting testimony of her love. He died suddenly ye 4th of August and was buried underneath ye 12th of the same month Anno Dom 1703 aetat 67 …

Amongst all the men, there is this cameo of a lady …

Isabella Gilmore (née Morris) oversaw the revival of the Deaconess Order in the Anglican Communion. She served actively in the poorest parishes in South London for almost two decades and was the sister of William Morris.

Incidentally, some time ago two patches of Roman mosaic were discovered in the churchyard and they are now incorporated into the Cathedral floor. See if you can spot them – this is one of them …

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Shakespeare, a quack doctor and a cadaver – my visit to Southwark Cathedral.

Last Saturday I popped in to the wonderful Southwark Cathedral, paid £2 for a photography licence, and walked around entranced.

A few feet from the door is the magnificent Shakespeare Memorial Window, Designed by Christopher Webb, it was created in 1954 to replace another destroyed in enemy action. It shows characters from the Bard’s plays …

The design uses the concept of the Jesse Tree. Prospero in the central light forms the trunk, with Ariel above and Caliban at his feet …

I’m sure you can spot Falstaff …

In the right hand window we find Lady Macbeth ,,,

Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee …

and Hamlet …

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy …

At the base, the last two of the Seven Ages of Man … …

The sixth age slips into the lean and slippered pantaloon, with spectacles on nose … and his big manly voice turning again toward childish treble … Last scene of all, is second childishness … sans teeth, sans eyes sans everything.

All the characters portrayed in the window are identified in this short article.

Below the window is an alabaster sculpture. Made by Henry McCarthy in 1912, it shows the world’s most famous playwright resting outside the Globe Theatre. He usually has a sprig of rosemary in his hand. The aromatic herb rosemary, as Ophelia says to her brother Laertes in Hamlet, is for remembrance; ‘pray, love remember’ …

I was very taken with this remarkably lifelike bust …

This is Lancelot Andrewes (1555 – 25 September 1626), the English bishop and scholar who oversaw the translation of the King James Version of the Bible …

Most importantly, I live in a block of flats named after him.

This effigy of an unknown knight is one of the earliest monumental wooden effigies in England, his mail coat and coif dating him to around 1280. He is believed to be a member of the de Warenne family who were benefactors of the priory …

Thomas Cure was a very important person in Southwark and London. He was the MP locally, and in East Grinstead, as well as the Master Saddler to King Edward VI, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I. He founded almshouses for the poor and these stood for nearly 300 years in Park Street, until the new railways forced their move to West Norwood. Eventually they were relocated, in the form of modern sheltered flats, to Purley, Surrey in 2006. Cure died in 1588 and this is a ‘cadaver tomb’, reminding us all of our mortality …

Is there anywhere in the world a more impressive monument to a quack ‘doctor’? Lionel Lockyer never qualified as a doctor (he was originally a tailor and a butcher) but became famous for his miracle pills that he claimed included sunbeams as an ingredient …

His tomb has an amusing inscription which includes the words …

His virtues & his PILLS are soe well known…
That envy can’t confine them vnder stone.
But they’ll surviue his dust and not expire
Till all things else at th’universall fire.

The man himself …

Lionel Lockyer. Line engraving by J. Sturt. Wellcome Library collections.

Following Lockyer’s death in 1672, his pills continued to be sold by his nephew, John Watts, in partnership with Thomas Fyge, an apothecary. The pills were sold wholesale in tins of 50 or 100 at a price of 4 shillings for 100. That equates to about two weeks’ wages for a skilled tradesman.

This is the tomb of John Gower. He was the Poet Laureate to Richard II and Henry IV and his head rests on his three best known books, Vox Clamantis in Latin, Speculum Meditantis in French, and Confessio Amantis in English. He died in 1408 …

I finished my short visit looking at a collection of medieval roof bosses. In 1469 the roof of the priory church collapsed and the stone vaulting was replaced by a carved wooden ceiling. This is one from that ceiling and shows the Devil swallowing Judas Iscariot …

There was, of course, lots more to see at Southwark, so I shall return. I went on to have a wander around the area and will report back on that next week.

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More City gardens and a churchyard mystery.

I must admit I thought I’d visited all the City gardens but I was wrong and had missed one of the most interesting.

In Pancras Lane, just off Queen Street, is the St Pancras Church Garden (EC2R 8JR). I was intrigued straight away by the carving of two devils cooking some poor condemned souls in a pot …

The garden is on the site of St Pancras Church, a late 11th century church destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. The church was never rebuilt, and the site was used first as a burial ground, but then lay basically abandoned until in 2010 the City of London acquired the leasehold of the site in order to turn it into a public garden.

The poetic idea behind the design, by Studio Weave, is that the church has somehow re-emerged, sprouting from the earth in the form of beautifully carved Romanesque wooden benches.

On the right Eve accepts an apple from the serpent – and we know it all turned out badly for her and Adam after that …

City & Guilds of London Art School was commissioned to produce the benches, which were individually carved during Summer 2011 by a team of tutors and students. The students based the design of the benches on historically referenced Romanesque church carvings …

I then headed north to walk around the London Wall Place area, which is looking really nice now that development has been completed. My first stop was St Alphage Gardens (EC2Y 5DE) …

You can see the north side of the wall from the Salters’ Hall garden – now usually open to the public (EC2Y 5DE) …

The St Alphage parish bought the church of the dissolved hospital of St Elsyng Spital in 1536. The tower is still there today just to the south of the wall …

From London Wall to lush green wall at Number 2 London Wall Place (EC2Y 5AU) …

And now a mystery. In the churchyard of St Mary Aldermary are two tombstones several feet apart (EC4M 9BW). One denotes the resting place of ‘Mary, wife of William Couthit. Entered into rest 29th January 1775 aged 43 years.’ William is also there – he died on 18th February 1808 aged 63. Beneath the William and Mary inscriptions are the words ‘Also Elizabeth Couthit …’ with the rest tantalisingly buried.

I have checked out this stone with a really useful resource, the audit of ‘Churchyard Inscriptions’ in City churchyards carried out by a man called Percy C. Rushen in 1910. He describes the stone exactly as it is now but records no date of death for Elizabeth. Here’s the actual page from his audit – the Couthits are recorded about half way down …

Now the mystery.

This is the other stone …

It claims to commemorate ELIZABETH, the wife of William COUTHWAITE, (so at first glance this is a different couple) and also William himself. However, she died on the same day as Mary Couthit (29th January 1775) and her William the same day as William Couthit (18th February 1808). As well as these anomalies, the ages at date of death on the second stone differ by one year. Elizabeth is shown as 42 at death rather than 43 and William as 62 instead of 63. Crucially, this stone does not appear in Rushen’s audit and he was obviously very meticulous.

My theory is that, many years after the Coutits had died, their descendants (now called Couthwaite) had traced their ancestors. Not realising for some reason that there was already a memorial, they erected another one with incorrect information.

In 1910 there were only three headstones and there are only three today. As we know, the Coutit one is still in the churchyard, and the other survivor is the one for Loudonsack and Widders …

The third stone still there is so weathered I couldn’t read it …

The last two words on the top line seem to be ‘…remains of …’ which would rule it out being the Thomas Hill stone mentioned in the audit.

Rushen listed 27 flatstones and there are nine in the churchyard now (all on the path leading to the door) …

One gives a remarkably detailed time of death along with Mrs Schneider’s exact age …

I have done some research about this stone and the people it commemorates in an earlier blog entitled Some of my favourite tombs, gravestones and memorials.

If you get the chance do visit the church. A former medieval church, largely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, it was rebuilt in 1679-82 by Sir Christopher Wren’s master craftsmen. It is the only surviving late 17th century Gothic church in the City of London and is especially notable for its unique plaster vaulting. Here’s what you see when you look up …

… and finally, a lady duck update.

Last week I published this picture of Ms Duck being pursued by two enthusiastic suitors …

I saw this scene a few days later and it seem she has shaken one of them off!

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Resurrection Stones – spiritual optimism in frightening times?

For centuries images of The Last Judgment were commonplace – particularly on church walls and in paintings. This is a typical example by Fra Angelico which is thought to have been painted between 1435 and 1440 …

Jesus sits enthroned in glory calling up the dead for judgment. He is surrounded by Saints and Apostles, his right hand pointing towards Heaven and his left to Hell. On one side people wearing their everyday clothes are led up to Heaven by winged angels …

But things are a bit grim on the bottom right. Demons prod and drag the condemned off to Hell where a horned Satan supervises a variety of terrible punishments. Look closely at the damned and you’ll see at least two monks and a bishop wearing a mitre …

The depictions of the Last Judgment I am going to write about are carved in stone and differ from the Fra Angelico composition in a number of ways. The first is in the narthex of St Mary-at-Hill on Lovat Lane (EC3R 8EE) …

Christ holding a banner stands amidst clouds. Satan, a figure with large claws, is being trampled under his feet.

It most likely dates from the 1670s. Its carver is unknown, but it is known that the prominent City mason Joshua Marshall was responsible for the rebuilding of the church in 1670-74 and his workshop may have produced the relief. Exactly where it was originally positioned is uncertain; most likely it stood over the entrance to the parish burial ground and was brought inside more recently.

In close up …

You can see open coffins as individuals respond to the call.
The winged Archangel Michael helps people rise again.

The main difference here from the traditional representations is the absence of Hell, so it’s a more optimistic portrayal. Also, people appear naked or just wrapped in a shroud rather than being differentiated by their clothing. Perhaps this signifies everyone is equal when the last judgment comes.

The second stone is just visible from Holborn Viaduct if you look down the steps of the church of St Andrew Holborn (EC4A 3AF) …

Although a bit more weather-beaten that the St Mary-at-Hill version, the figure of Christ’s head has not been damaged and he gazes serenely down as angels sound trumpets to summon the dead. He’s surrounded by little winged figures or putti …

Open coffins lie amongst the chaos as the angels do their work. Under his feet Christ is crushing a dragon-like creature with a long tail, again probably representing Satan …

People emerge, crawling towards the light …

One of the figures here is clinging to an angel and another holds his hands in prayer or supplication …

Once again, apart from Christ and the angels, everyone is naked and there is no representation of Hell. The stone once stood over the paupers’ cemetery in Shoe Lane and was maybe intended to give some succour and hope to those attending the burial of loved ones. It’s thought that this stone also dates from the 1670s but again the carver is unknown.

I am tempted to assume that, after the horrors of the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666, portrayals of the resurrection were represented more positively by removing threats of Hell and damnation.

I’m always looking out for great London blogs and my publication this week was inspired by the Flickering Lamps blogger Caroline who has written on the same subject. Click here for a link to her website.

By way of light relief in our own difficult times, if you have the chance check out the Herd of Hope elephants at Spitalfields Market …

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City churches – 100 years ago and now.

The black and white pictures in today’s blog are old glass slides and were taken for the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society. They are held at the Bishopsgate Institute.

First up is St Mary-le-Bow, built by Christopher Wren between 1670 and 1680 after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. It was gutted in the Second World War bombing (all that remained was the bell tower and the walls) but was rebuilt between 1956 and 1964. Incidentally, the church’s predecessor witnessed other dramas, apart from the catastrophic Great Fire.

In 1091 the roof blew off and in 1271 the steeple collapsed, in each case killing several parishioners. In 1284 Lawrence Duckett, an alleged murderer, sought sanctuary in the church, but a mob burst in and lynched him. In punishment for this act of sacrilege, sixteen men were hanged, drawn and quartered and one woman was burned at the stake. In 1331 a balcony collapsed during a jousting tournament casting Queen Philippa and her attendants into the street. Wren placed an iron balcony on the tower to celebrate the event. Next time you walk down Cheapside think of jousting horses galloping past and the rattle of knights’ armour.

Here’s the church in 1910 …

And the present day …

St Andrew Undershaft was so called because the maypole alongside it was taller than the church. The pole was set up opposite the church every year until Mayday 1517 when the tradition was suspended after the City apprentices (always a volatile bunch) rioted against foreign workers. Public gatherings on Mayday were therefore to be discouraged and the pole was hung up nearby in the appropriately named Shaft Alley. In 1549 the vicar of St Catharine Cree denounced the maypole as a pagan symbol and got his listeners so agitated they pulled the pole from its moorings, cut it up and burned it.

Here is a picture of the church around 1910 …

The view today, literally in the shadow of the Gherkin …

St Margaret Pattens is another Wren church, completed in 1702. The dedication is to St Margaret of Antioch and ‘pattens’ refers to wooden clog-like footwear which, strapped to the feet of medieval Londoners, enabled them to wade through the debris of the City with minimal damage to their shoes. The artisans who made them worked nearby in Rood Lane and a pair of pattens were on display at the Museum of London Secret Rivers exhibition in 2019 …

Here’s the church in 1920 …

And today …

St Mary Woolnoth is the only remaining complete City church by Wren’s gifted assistant, Nicholas Hawksmoor. It is also the only City church to have survived the Second World War unscathed. Built between 1716 and 1727 its exterior, with its flat topped turrets, is often regarded as being the most original in the City. Definitely worth visiting if only to see the memorial to the reformed slave trader John Newton whose preaching (from the pulpit still in the church) inspired William Wilberforce. You can read more about him and the church here.

This picture was taken around 1920 …

And here’s how it looks today …

St Stephen Walbrook was rebuilt by Wren in 1672-80 and was one of his earliest and largest City churches. The pains taken with the church are perhaps partly explained by the fact that he used to live next door. The beautiful dome was one of the first of its kind in any English church – a forerunner of Wren’s work on St Paul’s Cathedral. It is not known whether the wonderfully named Mr Pollixifen, who lived beside the church, was placated by the beauty of the building having, during its construction, complained bitterly that it was obstructing the light to his property. You can read more about what can be found inside the church here.

In 1917, when this picture was taken, a bookshop abutted the building …

The same view today from outside the Mansion House …

The dome – a Wren masterpiece …

St Alban Wood street was dedicated to the first English martyr who died in the fourth century. By the 17th century the original medieval church was in a very poor state of repair and was demolished and rebuilt in 1634 only to be destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. Christopher Wren undertook its second rebuilding which was completed in 1685.

The church was restored in 1858-9 by George Gilbert Scott, who added an apse, and the tower pinnacles were added in the 1890s. It was destroyed on a terrible night, 29 December 1940, when the bombing also claimed another eighteen churches and a number of livery halls. Some of St Alban’s walls survived but they were demolished in 1954 and now nothing remains apart from the tower – not even a little garden to give it some cover from the traffic passing on both sides. I’ve often been told someone lives there but I have never seen any evidence of it.

Here’s the church in its Wood Street setting around 1875 …

And in splendid isolation today …

I think that’s probably enough for the time being. I will return to the ‘then and now’ theme in a future blog. I am indebted to the wonderful little book London’s City Churches by Stephen Millar for the source of much of today’s information. Many thanks also to the Spitalfields Life blog for the old pictures – you can see them and more here.

Finally, some ‘reasons to be cheerful’.

The Magnolia is in bloom at St Giles …

And the wonderful City gardeners have continued to work tirelessly to keep the City looking its best …

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A hair merchant, a weeping statue and a Damien Hirst – my visit to St Bartholomew the Great

You approach the church via the Tudor Gatehouse. It dates from 1595 and was fortuitously revealed when a bomb dropped by a Zeppelin in 1915 tore off later accretions as these ‘before’ and ‘after’ images illustrate …

Much of the late 19th and early 20th century church restoration work was carried out by Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930). His son, Philip, was killed in action on 25th September 1916 and his name appears on the memorial to the right of the entrance …

There is a plaque just behind the gate commemorating Sir Aston Webb’s work. It includes his coat of arms (which incorporates a spider, a playful reference to his name) …

You get a nice view of the flint and Portland Stone western facade of the church from the raised churchyard. An old barrel tomb rests in the foreground …

Bear in mind that the original church was vast and also covered the area now occupied by the graveyard and the path. This used to be the nave, as illustrated in this plan on display in the church …

Stepping into the church seems to transport you to another time and place …

The patchworked exterior gives no hint of the stunning Romanesque interior, with its characteristic round arches and sturdy pillars. It’s a rare sight in London; indeed, this is reckoned to be the best preserved and finest Romanesque church interior in the City.

Just to shock you back into the present, the south transept contains this sculpture …

Entitled Exquisite Pain, as well as his skin St Bartholomew also holds a scalpel in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. The second surprise, to me anyway, was that this work was by Damien Hirst, the modern artist known particularly for his spot paintings and the shark swimming in formaldehyde. St Bartholomew is the patron saint of Doctors and Surgeons and Hirst has said that this 2006 work ‘acts as a reminder that the strict demarcation between art, religion and science is a relatively recent development and that depictions of Saint Bartholomew were often used by medics to aid in anatomy studies’. He went on to say that the scissors were inspired by Tim Burton’s film ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990) to imply that ‘his exposure and pain is seemingly self- inflicted. It’s kind of beautiful yet tragic’. The work is on long-term loan from the artist …

Just behind Hirst’s work is a rare pre-Reformation font (1404) in which William Hogarth was baptised on 28 November 1697 …

I paused at the monument to Edward Cooke who died in 1652 and read the curious rhyme inscribed on it …

Vnsluce yor briny floods, what can yee keepe

Yor eyes from teares, & see the marble weepe

Burst out for shame: or if yee find noe vent

For teares, yet stay, and see the stones relent.

It was known as the ‘weeping statue’ because the moisture in the atmosphere used to be soaked up by the soft marble and miraculously released again as ‘tears’ from time to time. Alas, the Victorians installed a radiator under the monument which put a stop to the moisture releasing properties of the stone and, sadly, it wept no more.

This is the spectacular tomb of Sir Walter and Lady Mary Mildmay. He was the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth I and the founder of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. His wife was the sister of the Queen’s ‘spymaster’, Sir Francis Walsingham. Sir Walter died in 1589 and Mary in 1576 …

It’s thought that the tomb does not contain religious figures or Christian symbols because Sir Walter had strong Puritan leanings.

This is the monument to James Rivers who died of the plague in 1641 …

The inscription refers to a disease as malignant as the time referring, no doubt, to the English Civil War. Rivers was a prominent Puritan MP and took his seat in Parliament in 1640.

In a number of places around the church you will find these beautiful sculptures in glass by Sophie Arkette …

They are entitled Colloquy and are etched with literary or poetical text. These are illuminated and distorted by the effects of light (from either candles within the work or from around the building) and water (included within parts of the work).

Under the oriel window there is a nice example of a rebus, in this case a representation of a person’s name using a picture. Here Prior Bolton’s name is neatly implied by a crossbow bolt piercing a tun (a type of cask). Bolton was Prior of St Bartholomew the Great between 1505 and 1532 and carried out repair and construction work across the church …

There is also a version in 16th century stained glass at the eastern end of the church …

I was intrigued by this tombstone in the north transept …

To be buried inside the church indicated that he was a wealthy man and this was no doubt because, in the 18th century, wigs of all varieties were tremendously fashionable. Good hair was seen as a sign of health, youth and beauty and merchants like Mr Thornell often travelled the country looking for supplies (even buying it off the head of those needy enough to sell it).

As I walked down the transept I glanced to my left and glimpsed this reclining figure …

It is of course, the tomb of Prior Rahere, the founder of the Priory and hospital …

He wears the habit of an Augustinian canon and the angel carries a shield with the arms of the priory.

Rahere was a courtier and favourite at the court of Henry I who reigned from 1100 to 1135. After falling dangerously ill whilst on pilgrimage to Rome, Rahere had a vision of St Bartholomew, who told him to found a hospital. He duly got better, and when he returned to London he founded a hospital and an Augustinian priory in 1123 (dedicating them to St Bartholomew to give thanks for his recovery). He was the institution’s first prior and remained in this role until his death in 1144 (the tomb is later and dates from 1405). You can still see some of the original paintwork …

Incidentally, I came across this great 1915 picture of how the tomb was protected during wartime bombing …

There is much more to see in this beautiful place and so I strongly recommend a visit. Entrance is free but the church has been hit hard by the pandemic so, if you can afford it, do make a donation to help support it. Opening times are on the website which you can access here.

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‘Smooth Field’ – a wander around Smithfield

Smithfield has a rather gruesome history.

For example, on 16 July 1546 Anne Askew was burnt at the stake along with John Lascelles (a lawyer and Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber), John Hadlam (a tailor from Essex) and John Hemsley (a former Franciscan friar). A great stage was built at Smithfield for the convenience of Chancellor Wriothesley, other members of the Privy Council and City dignitaries, to watch the burning in comfort …

The execution of Anne Askew and her companions – 1563 woodcut from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Anne herself, having been illegally broken on the rack, was unable to stand, and was chained to the stake in a sitting position. You can read more about this fascinating, brave lady here.

Every burning was different; if the fire ‘caught’, it could be over relatively quickly, but on damp days, or when the wind persisted in blowing the flames away from the body, it could take up to an hour for the condemned person to die, an hour of excruciating agony.

Their crime was heresy and of the 288 people estimated to have been burnt during the five year reign of Mary Tudor, forty eight were killed in Smithfield. ‘Bloody Mary’ was the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon and the burnings were part of her campaign to reverse the English Reformation.

The ‘Marian Martyrs’ are commemorated with this plaque erected by the Protestant Alliance in 1870 …

The gilding is a little faded in this picture. It reads …

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. The noble army of martyrs praise Thee! Within a few feet of this spot,

John Rogers,

John Bradford,

John Philpot,

and other servants of God, suffered death by fire for the faith of Christ, in the years 1555, 1556, 1557

This had been a place of public execution for over 400 years; many witches and heretics had been burnt, roasted or boiled alive there. It was here that the Scottish hero and patriot, Sir William Wallace, was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1315 and has two memorials. This one in West Smithfield (EC1A 7AQ) …

There are often fresh flowers left here in his memory.

And another just inside the entrance to the St Bartholomew the Great churchyard …

This slate triptych, also in West Smithfield,was unveiled by Ken Loach in July 2015 and commemorates the Great Rising of 1381 (more commonly known as the Peasants’ Revolt) …

The Revolt was led by Wat Tyler and on June 15th 1381 he had the opportunity to speak directly to the 14-year-old king, Richard II. Accompanying the King was the Lord Mayor of London William Walworth and, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Walworth ran Tyler through with his sword. Badly wounded, Tyler was carried into nearby St Bartholomew’s Hospital but, rather unsportingly, Walworth had him dragged out and decapitated. Poll Tax protesters were dealt with very ruthlessly in those days!

The Mayor is commemorated with a statue on Holborn Viaduct

His trusty sword is in a scabbard at his side.

Here is a 15th century depiction of Walworth in action …

The death of Wat Tyler. From a manuscript copy of the Chronicles of Jean Froissart, created in 1483.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Queen Mary’s dad, Henry VIII, has a statue nearby over the main entrance to the hospital. If you have seen and admired the famous Holbein portrait, the king’s pose here is very familiar. He stands firmly and sternly with his legs apart, one hand on his dagger, the other holding a sceptre. He also sports an impressive codpiece …

Founded in 1331, the hospital was put seriously at risk in 1534, when Henry VIII commenced the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The nearby priory of St Bartholomew was suppressed in 1539 and the hospital would have followed had not the City fathers petitioned the king and asked for it to be granted back to the City. Their motives were not entirely altruistic. The hospital, they said, was needed to help:

the myserable people lyeing in the streete, offendyng every clene person passyng by the way with theyre fylthye and nastye savors.

Henry finally agreed in December 1546 on condition that the refounded hospital was renamed ‘House of the poore on West Smithfield in the suburbs of the City of London, of King Henry’s foundation’. I suspect people still tended to call it Bart’s. Henry finally got full public recognition when the gatehouse was rebuilt in 1702 and his statue was placed where we still see it today. The work was undertaken and overseen by the mason John Strong, who was at the same time working for Sir Christopher Wren on St Paul’s Cathedral. Such were the masons’ talents, no architectural plans were needed to complete the work.

By the way, you can see the agreement, with Henry’s signature, at the lovely little St Bartholomew’s Museum when hopefully it reopens next year. Here’s a picture of the document I took a few years ago …

It also bears the Henry’s seal, the king charging into battle on horseback accompanied by a dog …

The hospital was founded, along with the Priory of St Bartholomew, in 1123 by Rahere, formerly a courtier of Henry I, and if you pop into the church of St Bartholomew the Great you can see his tomb …

Rahere died in 1143 and his tomb dates from 1405.

I found this great picture of how the tomb was protected from bomb damage during the First World War …

There were several near misses from bombs dropped by Zeppelin airships and you can still see shrapnel marks on the hospital’s walls …

As you leave the hospital, pause for a few moments at the little War Memorial commemorating those who lost their lives in the ‘Great War’ . I took these pictures just after the Armistice Day ceremony …

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This touching message commemorates a Second World War sailor …

If you want to know more about the Smithfield burnings here is a link to one of my sources and a book entitled The Burning Time – The Story of the Smithfield Martyrs.

I have discovered a lot more to write about relating to Smithfield and will return there in a future blog.

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The only Catholic church in the City

I have been researching the history of St Mary Moorfields in Eldon Street (EC2M 7LS) and Catholic worship in the City generally.

For over two hundred years, after the 1559 Act of Uniformity, Catholics were forbidden to worship in public until the Catholic Relief Act of 1791. A chapel was opened in 1686, but had to be suspended in 1689. From 1736 there was a chapel in Ropemaker’s Alley but its altar, fittings and crucifixes were ripped out and destroyed in the Gordon Riots of 1780. This was succeeded by a chapel in White Street. Its replacement in 1820 by a large Classical church in Finsbury Circus sponsored by laypeople marked a turning point in the size and stylistic aspirations of Catholic churches. The final church of the first wave of building that succeeded the Relief Act, it was probably the finest in structure and decoration and also the largest Catholic church in London. It was called St Mary Moorfields after its location …

‘Celebration of High Mass on Christmas Day’ – Picture: Wikimedia Commons

In 1884 the Church acquired a huge site off of Victoria Street in west London. The construction of what would be Westminster Cathedral commenced in 1895 and in 1899, when parts of the new building became usable for worship, the Moorfields church was sold and demolished. It was replaced by the present building in Eldon Street which was designed by George Sherrin and opened on 25th March 1903. The name remained the same even though it was no longer in Moorfields.

The entrance is squeezed in between two shops and if you are walking along the north side of Eldon Street it is easy to miss it completely unless you look up and see the Papal tiara over the doors …

View from the South side of Eldon Street.

The facade is of Portland stone with some intricate decoration either side of the entrance. Note the hammer, pliers and three nails representing the crucifixion. Further up there is a scourge and a crown of thorns …

Alongside are scenes from the life of the Virgin by J Daymond …

These two represent the Annunciation and the Nativity.

Above them is a statue of the Virgin and child being crowned by cherubs …

I think the interior is magnificent. The classical como marble columns around the altar come from the old church …

As does the High Altar itself …

It is modelled in the form of a sarcophagus to recall the ancient practice of celebrating Mass on the tombs of martyr-saints in the catacombs of Rome.

The wide becherubed font also made the journey from Moorfields but the cover is from around 1900 …

The church enjoys very little natural light. In fact when the building was erected the floor had to be lowered three feet to protect adjoining buildings’ ‘ancient lights’. As a result the stained glass window is artificially illuminated …

It depicts the Assumption.

One of the side chapels …

The oak wood carving in the church is very attractive and is also by Daymond …

The tympanum above the shrine to St Thomas More at the south end of the aisle portrays his execution in 1920s mosaic style …

It is a lovely little church to visit and when I have popped in occasionally pre-Covid there was a very atmospheric whiff of incense.

You can find details such as mass times on the website.

Incidentally, there were other survivors from the 1899 demolition, four stained glass windows which found their way to St Joseph’s Lambs Passage (EC1Y 8LE), a small chapel in the basement of a former school of 1901. Despite what the sign on the building says, it is not actually a church but a ‘chapel of ease’ to St Mary’s. Such chapels were built within the bounds of a parish for the attendance of those who could not reach the parish church conveniently …

As a result of wartime damage only two windows survive and this is one of them (The Agony in the Garden). I wasn’t able to access the building to take pictures so the image comes from the internet …

Details of the chapel, its history, services and place in the community can be found here.

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Rescued! Church artifacts saved from destruction (and a fascinating story of resurrection)

On the night of December 30th 1940, when Christchurch Newgate Street was a blazing inferno, an unknown postman rushed into the building, grabbed this font cover and carried it to safety …

Made of oak, it was created about 1690 and is typical of many such covers made for City churches after the Great Fire of 1666. You can admire its beautiful craftmanship if you visit St Sepulchre-without-Newgate where it rests on a new font, the original having been destroyed in the bombing (EC1A 2DQ).

Another survivor of the Blitz can be found in St Botolph Without Aldgate (EC3N 1AB). This intricately carved wooden panel depicts King David along with musical instruments …

It was created between 1713 and 1715 to grace the front of an organ gallery in the church of St Mary Matfelon, Whitechapel. When the church was destroyed by bombing on the 27th December 1940 the carving was saved and later restored …

St Giles Cripplegate was severely damaged during the Second World War and there was a direct hit on the north door in the summer of 1940. The following December the church was showered with so many incendiary bombs that even the cement caught alight. You can still see scorch marks …

All that remained was the shell, the arcade in the chancel, the outside walls and the tower and that these survived says much for the medieval architects. It wasn’t just bombing that resulted in church furniture being moved. When nearby St Luke’s was closed due to subsidence in 1959 St Giles was a beneficiary, acquiring the closed church’s pews …

Altar …

And a lovely 18th century font …

A tablet recording the Rectors of St Luke’s since 1733 also made the move …

St Swithun London Stone was also damaged in bombing but unfortunately was beyond repair and eventually demolished. It’s pulpit fortunately survived and is now used at All Hallows by the Tower …

It dates from around 1670 and is carved in the style of Grinling Gibbons. Above it is the tester, or sounding board, designed to represent three pilgrim shells associated with the pilgrimage of St James Compostella in Spain.

However, the greatest cause of church destruction after the Great Fire was not the Blitz but The Union of Benefices Act of 1860. In order to reflect the dramatic drop in the City’s population, it allowed the London diocese to sell churches and built new ones in the suburbs with the proceeds. This accounted for the loss of some 22 churches and the last of these – All Hallows Lombard Street – was demolished as late as 1938, despite the contemporary reverence for Wren.

I have been tracking where some of these churches’ belongings ended up.

The church of St Matthew Friday was demolished in 1888 but the Wren Pulpit found its way to St Andrew by the Wardrobe …

As did the font cover …

The baptismal font in St Margaret Lothbury, believed to be by Gibbons, came from St Olave, Old Jewry, after that church was partially demolished in 1887 except for the tower and west wall, which remain today. The font is a carved bowl with cherub heads at each corner and the four sides are decorated with Adam and Eve, the dove returning to the ark, the baptism of Jesus and the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip …

One of my favourite churches, St Vedast-alias-Foster, has been particularly fortunate in its acquisitions (EC2V 6HH).

The Gibbons font cover came from St Anne and St Agnes after that church was damaged by bombing …

The exquisite 17th-century wineglass pulpit was made for All Hallows, Bread Street (demolished 1878). It’s also by Gibbons …

Legend has it that incorporating a peapod was one way that Gibbons ‘signed’ his work. If the peapod was open he had been paid – if it was closed he had not. If this is true, he was properly remunerated for his work on this pulpit …

The reredos came from St Christopher-le-Stocks (demolished in 1781 to make way for an extension to the Bank of England) …

And finally, a tale of resurrection.

St Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, was severely damaged and gutted in the Blitz …

After the war, however, it had the unique distinction of being taken apart, shipped to Fulton, Missouri in the USA in 1965, and rebuilt to mark the visit of Churchill to Westminster College in 1946. The church now sits above the National Churchill Museum. Westminster College was the location of Churchill’s speech that included the famous phrase ‘An iron curtain has descended across the continent’.

Here’s how it looks today …

You can read more about the church and the Museum here.

The old site of the church in Aldermanbury is now a garden …

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A famed swordsman, a tragic drowning and an honest lawyer – exploring St Dunstan-in-the-West

I had a great stroke of luck last Friday when I wandered into St Dunstan’s and met by chance two of the lady administrators who kindly took the trouble to show me around. The church is on Fleet Street (EC4A 2HR).

In a niche in one of the side chapels is a marble bust of a youth with fine features, Edward James Auriol lying on a pillow, hand on heart, as if asleep …

In fact, he died tragically at the age of 17 when he drowned in the Rhône river in Geneva one bright morning on 19th August 1847. A student at King’s College London, he was the ‘tenderly beloved and only child’ of the Rector of St Dunstan’s Edward Auriol and his wife Georgiana.

Nearby is this fascinating memorial to ‘ye fam’d swordsman’ Alexander Layton who died in 1679 and who rests ‘not far from this place’ …

Erected by a grateful scholar of Layton’s, ‘John Brewer of Grays Inn Road’, at the foot of the tablet are the following words suggesting Layton’s final opponent was death itself …

His thrusts like lightning flew, more skilful Death

Parried ’em all, and beat him out of breath.

There was nothing the ‘Master of Defence’ could do.

There’s a memorial bust to Cuthbert Fetherstone (1537-1615) …

He served as the Gentleman Usher to Queen Elizabeth I, and as such was her trusted friend. Cuthbert and his wife Katharine lived in London but the housing conditions in the city were poor and they eventually left their home in Chancery Lane. They purchased Hassingbrook Hall, an ancient manor near the banks of Hassinbrook at Stanford-le-Hope, twenty-five miles downstream from London. After Elizabeth’s death he became Usher and Crier to King James I.

Here he is, painted in oils around 1598 …

Copyright: National Trust Uppark House and Garden, West Sussex

The earliest monuments in the church are these two brass kneeling figures …

The plaque reads as follows …

Here lyeth buryed the body of Henry Dacres, Cetezen and Marchant Taylor and Sumtyme Alderman of London, and Elizabeth his Wyffe, the whych Henry decessed the … day of … the yere of our Lord God – and the said Elizabeth decessed the xxii day of Apryll the yere of our Lord God MD and XXX.

Elizabeth died in 1530 and Henry nine years later. His will tells us that the brass was already made before he died and ‘made at myn owne costes to the honour of almighty god and the blessed sacrament’. He also left 20 shillings to be used for the annual purchase of coal for the benefit of poor parishoners.

I am sure there are very few dishonest solicitors nowadays, but there seems to have been a time when an honest one was rather unusual, and this virtue was so exceptional that his clients paid for a memorial plaque saying so. It reads ‘Hobson Judkin, late of Clifford’s Inn, THE HONEST SOLICITOR who departed this life June 30th 1812’.

‘Go reader’ we are commanded ‘and imitate Hobson Judkin’.

The kneeling figure next to the war memorial is said to represent Sir Roger North (1577-1651) …

This plaque celebrates the virtues and generosity of James Chambers, a ‘Citizen and Goldsmith … Eminent Banker … A man courteous to his neighbours … a Loving Husband, a Tender Father and a Sincere Friend’ …

He was also incredibly generous, being …

Very benificent to his Relations to whom he parted with upwards of £20,000 in his lifetime.

That would be getting on for two million pounds in today’s money.

The front right-hand pew has a seat reserved for the Lord Mayor, dramatically marked by an iron sword rest, dating from 1745, and commemorating the English victory over the Jacobite Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie, at Culloden. My photograph doesn’t really do it justice …

Sword rests, or sword stands, were originally installed in City churches to hold the Lord Mayor’s sword of state when he visited different churches every Sunday, a practice which ceased in 1883.

Dedicated to a Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury and Benedictine monk, St Dunstan’s survived the Great Fire but was demolished and rebuilt between 1830 and 1833. The octagonal interior is wonderfully atmospheric …

I took a close look at the remarkable Christian Orthodox screen (or iconostasis) which came from Romania in 1966 …

The screen is over 100 years old and was originally created for the Monastery of Antim in Bucharest. I also spotted various individual icons …

These and the screen are clues to the fact that, although this is a Church of England church, it also hosts Romanian Orthodox Church services.

There is more to see in St Dunstan’s and I intend to return. If you are interested in churches, this is definitely one to visit. It has just reopened for private prayer and you can find opening times on the website.

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Aimless wandering!

I think the lockdown is finally getting to me. I usually don’t have much trouble thinking of a theme for the blog but this week I have failed. So instead, I just wandered around a still quiet City with my camera waiting to see what caught my eye. These are the results – I hope you find some of them interesting.

Now the pavements are deserted, it’s easier to look upwards as you walk and see what you might have missed on previous occasions.

The Victorians paid a lot of attention to decorative detail and I really liked these two faces, carved into bricks, looking out over London Wall. I’ve nicknamed them Beauty …

… and the beast …

And while on the subject of beauties and beasts, take a look at this view from Gresham Street …

The church is St Lawrence Jewry and behind it some modern buildings that I like, the Cheesegrater and the Scalpel, and one I don’t, a characterless glass monster growing on Bishopsgate.

There’s a nice little pond in front of the church …

It’s home to these Arum Lilies and Irises …

I have written before about Thomas Gresham and the college he founded was once based here at 90 Basinghall Street until 1991 (EC2V 5AY) …

Above the coat of arms rests the symbolic Gresham grasshopper …

The sun was perfectly placed to illuminate Ariel or The Spirit of the Winds by Charles Wheeler. She’s positioned on a cupola above the Bank of England on Tivoli Corner …

When she was unveiled in 1937 the Bank’s magazine stated …

It is the symbol of the dynamic spirit of the Bank which carries Credit and Trust over the wide world.

Ariel was, of course, the Spirit of the Air in Shakespeare’s Tempest, who by Prospero’s magic could ‘put a girdle around the world in forty minutes’.

I’m fascinated by this old Wall on London Wall. I can’t find out more about it but it looks Medieval to me (EC2M 5ND) …

London Wall has lots of examples of the wonderful work the small team of City gardeners do to keep beds and parks looking good all year round …

Austin Friars (off Old Broad street) was once the location of an Augustinian Friary until its dissolution in 1538. Walk in through an atmospheric doorway with its charming ghost signs …

When I visited the sun was in exactly the right place to illuminate the slightly spooky friar who reminds us of the area’s original purpose …

He resides at 4 Austin Friars, was sculpted by T Metcalfe and dates from 1989 (EC2N 2HA).

Near St Giles Cripplegate, the Columbarium is known as ‘one of London’s secret gardens.’ It lies to the east of the church down a flight of stairs. There are some niches on an outside wall and others are in a covered area enclosed by a gate …

And finally, two of the City of London Police’s finest …

… and their riders.

I really enjoyed my little walk and I hope you enjoyed reading about it.

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St Sepulchre’s Church and Newgate Gaol

For centuries there was a close connection between the church and the notorious prison just across the road from it (EC1A 2DQ).

Demolished in 19o2 and standing where the Old Bailey is now, there had been a prison on the site since the 12th century. Over time the building had been consistently altered physically, but what did not change was its reputation for brutality, filth, sickness and death.

Newgate Gaol shortly before demolition.

The gallows loomed over the justice system. The first permanent version was set up at Tyburn in 1571 (roughly where Marble Arch is today) and prisoners were taken there through the streets from Newgate attracting vast crowds of spectators. The journey could take up to three hours with the carts stopping at taverns on the way where popular convicts were treated to drinks – sometimes the condemned men shouted ‘ I’ll buy you a pint on the way back’.

Getting ready for Tyburn ‘customers’. The Tyburn Tree by Wayne Haag from the Hyde Park Barracks Mural Project, Sydney, Australia.

After execution, which was often more like slow strangulation, fights frequently broke out over ownership of the body with relatives and friends fighting surgeons who were promised ten bodies a year for dissection.

While researching I came across this poem by John Taylor (1578-1653) …

I Have heard sundry men oft times dispute
Of trees, that in one year will twice bear fruit.
But if a man note Tyburn, ‘will appear,
That that’s a tree that bears twelve times a year.
I muse it should so fruitful be, for why
I understand the root of it is dry,
It bears no leaf, no bloom, or no bud,
The rain that makes it fructify is blood.
I further note, the fruit which it produces,
Doth seldom serve for profitable uses:
Except the skillful Surgeons industry
Do make Dissection of Anatomy.

To stamp out disorders, the Tyburn gallows was demolished in 1783 and executions moved to a spot outside Newgate itself …

A hanging outside Newgate in the early 1800s – Wikipedia.

Remarkably, a part of the old prison wall can still be seen at the end of the beautifully named Amen Corner, off the equally prettily named Ave Maria Lane (EC4M 7AQ) …

Amen Corner is now private property so this picture comes from the Internet.

Also, one of the doors condemned prisoners walked through to their execution is kept at the Museum of London …

Picture copyright Museum of London.

St Sepulchre’s Church today …

Look out for the sundial …

It is on the parapet above south wall of the nave and is believed to date from 1681. It is made of stone painted blue and white with noon marked by an engraved ‘X’ and dots marking the half hours. I wondered if the Newgate executioner might have taken the time from this dial to help him decide when to start the journey west to the gallows.

Incidentally, I have written about City Sundials before in a blog entitled We are but shadows. Also, on the corner of the churchyard, there is a famous drinking fountain which you can read about here.

Carts carrying the condemned on their way to Tyburn would pause briefly at the church where prisoners would be presented with a nosegay. However, they would already have had an encounter with someone from the church the night before. In 1605, a wealthy merchant called Robert Dow made a bequest of £50 for a bellman from the church to stand outside the cells of the condemned at midnight, ring the bell, and chant as follows:

All you that in the condemned hole do lie, Prepare you, for tomorrow you shall die; Watch all and pray, the hour is drawing near, That you before the Almighty must appear; Examine well yourselves, in time repent, That you may not to eternal flames be sent: And when St. Sepulchre’s bell tomorrow tolls, The Lord above have mercy on your souls.

And you can still see the bell today, displayed in a glass case in the church …

Includes my reflection … whoops!

Adjacent to the bell is this helpful notice …

The last public hanging in England took place outside Newgate on 26 May 1868, the condemned man being the Fenian Michael Barrett who had been convicted of mass murder.

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, to give it it’s full name, has other fascinating features which I shall write about in a future blog.

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