Walking the City of London

Category: Religion Page 1 of 3

All Hallows by the Tower – an absolute treasure trove.

One of the aspects of this church that impresses me most is how it was reconstructed after direct hits by bombs during the Blitz.

The interior today …

The church was bombed on two occasions during the Blitz: first the east end was badly damaged by a bomb in December 1940, and three weeks later the whole building was gutted by incendiary bombs, leaving only the tower and outer walls standing. This photo from the 1947 publication The Lost Treasures of London by William Kent shows the devastation …

All Hallows by the Tower

Here it is last week on a wet and windy day looking from the east …

Before entering the church from this direction I suggest a short diversion.

On Tower Hill Terrace you will find this pretty sculpture. It’s called The Sea and incorporates a tribute to Sir Follett Holt, KBE, the first Chairman of the Tower Hill Improvement Trust, who died 20th March 1944 …

It is one of two gate posts – this is its partner …

The PMSA says ‘Each of these groups comprises two children with dolphins swimming around them. Their frolicking pagan style contrasts rather vividly with the relief of the Toc H Lamp, also by Cecil Thomas, on the east wall of All Hallows behind them’

The Toc H relief …

I walked down the little path alongside the west wall of the church …

Embedded in the wall was this memorial to Samuel Gittens MD. It has three little cherubs heads and refers to his parents ‘Samuel and Mary Gittens of Barbados’ …

Alongside the north wall is the ‘Secret Garden’ …

It is such a shame that, even though the church is right alongside the Tower of London, it doesn’t seem to get many visitors. Do visit if you have the opportunity.

Here are just a few of its treasures.

This is the tomb of the Reverend ‘Tubby’ Clayton CH MC who became vicar of the Church in 1922 and remained there until 1963. He is best known for his work initially as an army chaplain during the First World War and in particular the establishment of Talbot House, a unique place of rest and sanctuary for British troops. After the war the spirit and intent of Talbot House became expressed through the Toc H movement …

His effigy is one of the last works by Cecil Thomas, the ‘soldier sculptor’, and Tubby’s dog Chippie sits on a tassellated cushion at his feet …

Clayton owned a succession of Scottish Terriers, one of them a gift from the Queen Mother. All of them were called Chippie.

Another work by Thomas, the Forster Memorial …

The magnificent font cover is by Grinling Gibbons and dates from 1682 …

The present pulpit dates from around 1670 and is carved in the Gibbons style. It comes from the church of St Swithun’s, London Stone, which was destroyed by bombing and not rebuilt …

Above it is the tester, or sounding board, designed to represent three pilgrim shells associated with the pilgrimage of St James Compostella in Spain.

All Hallows is known as the seafarer’s church with strong connections to the Port of London Authority and to maritime history generally.

Mariners lost at sea with no known grave …

The stained glass windows, especially in the south aisle, also bear witness to the church’s close association with the sea and the river Thames …

There are also, as you might expect, some superb model ships …

And what about this, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s electrically heated crow’s nest from the ‘Good Ship Quest’ on which he died on 5 January 1922 while in harbour in South Georgia …

The man climbing to the crow’s nest in the picture is Frank Wild. He took over the leadership of the expedition after Shackleton died.

This picture was taken on the Nimrod Expedition (1907-1909). Wild is on the far left next to Shackleton. The other two men are Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams

The 16th century monument to the Italian merchant Hieronimus Benalius who lived in nearby Seething Lane and died in 1583. He left instructions for Masses to be said for his soul …

This wall monument contains the kneeling effigies of Francis Covell and his wife, each in long robes and with ruffs at the necks. They kneel facing one another, and probably originally had a desk between them which has disappeared …

In the Lady Chapel is the tomb of Alderman John Croke from 1477. It was destroyed during the war, but rebuilt and restored from the remaining fragments …

This is the formidable pillar monument to Giles Lytcott and his family …

The lower inscription …

Ten children but only three living at the time of the mother’s death. It didn’t matter how rich you were, child mortality was high.

You can read the full insciption here. Intriguingly it refers to an ancestor ‘poisoned in the Tower’.

A niche in the wall holds a 17th century wooden statue of St. Antony of Egypt …

There are several fine 18th century sword rests …

How fantastic that this brass from 1612 has survived to tell a sad story …

Here lyeth the bodie of Marie Bvrnell late wife of Iohn Bvrnell Citizen & marchant of Lon don ye only davghter of Mathew Brownrigg of Ipswich in ye covntye of Svffolk Esq. A woman Syncerely lyvinge in ye feare of god & dyinge con stantly in ye fayth of Christ Ihesvs she departed this lyfe ye 5 daye of Aprill 1612 beinge of yf age of 20 years havinge fynished in wedlock wth her sayd hvsband to yeafes & v moneths & bear ing him Issve one sone whereof she dyed in child bed & expecteth now wth ye Elect of god a Ioyfvll
resvrrection

Poor Marie. So typical of the time, a young woman dying in childbirth.

And now down to the crypt museum. A subject for a future blog …

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A stunning dome, a dancing skeleton and a famous telephone. Another visit to St Stephen Walbrook.

The modest entrance to this church is so deceptive …

Nothing prepares you, as you climb the 13 steps, for what you will shortly encounter when you enter …

The majestic space within…

The dome is Wren’s finest and based on his original design for St Paul’s …

Wren lived at number 15 Walbrook and took special care in rebuilding this, his parish church, between 1672 and 1679, after the previous 15th century church was destroyed in the Great Fire. By the 18th century, the building was world famous, the Italian sculptor/architect Antonio Canova declaring, ‘We have nothing to touch it in Rome.’ And the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner lists it as one of the ten most important buildings in all of England.

Before considering the church as it looks now, you might be interested in its layout before the box pews were removed in 1888. This image, held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and dated 1809, shows a service in progress with figures in the pews listening to a minister in a pulpit to the right of the altar …

In 1987 the church was rearranged around a central, circular, polished stone altar, made of travartine marble by the famed sculptor Henry Moore. Patrick Heron (1920-1999) was one of Britain’s foremost abstract painters and he designed the colourful kneelers …

The idea was that the community would gather around it and for its central position to represent how the Gospel was central to their lives. 

It went against the Christian tradition of having the altar at the Eastern end of the church and so naturally there was huge opposition to idea from some. The case ended up being taken to the Ecclesiastical courts where it was found to be acceptable. 

The pulpit and font cover are attributed to the carpenters Thomas Creecher and Stephen Colledge, and the carvers William Newman and Jonathan Maine …

Look back towards the entrance to the church to see the rather magnificent organ case above the door. This dates from 1765 …

I took a prowl around the monuments and was stopped in my tracks by this one to John Lilburne (d.1678), citizen and grocer, of the Lilburn family of Sunderland, and his wife Isabella. It’s the earliest monument in the Church …

I love the little standing figures of the couple, he with cloak and long flowing hair above a tunic, with big cuffs and slender shoes, she a slim figure with long, flaring skirt, puffed out bodice and drapes over and behind her head. A charming pose with her arms crossed in front of her.

But what really caught my eye was the memento mori, a sculpture of a woman dancing with Death, who is a skeleton wearing a long skirt …

Then there’s George Alfred Croly of the Bengal Light Infantry who fell ‘gloriously by a cannon shot’ in the ‘assault on the entrenched camp of the sikhs’ in 1845, aged only 23 …

Robert Marriott’s splendid memorial …

Robert Marriott was Rector from 1662 until he died in 1689 aged 81
years. His monument in Latin describes him as ‘Professor of theology
and the watchful pastor of this Church. A man as a preacher so truly
Divine that by his preaching he at once charmed and convinced his
hearers. A man in whose character old time integrity was so tempered
with a sweetness that he made simplicity loveable. A man of so
spotless a life that his own example confirmed and recommended what
his lips taught.’ Praise indeed.

A long, rather touching inscription for Sir Samuel Moyer …

Many memorials of the time provide an insight into the dreadful child mortality rates of earlier centuries, even for those who were affluent. The tablet states that Samuel Moyer was a Baronet. He must have had money as the tablet states the family spent the summer at their home at Pitsey Hall in Essex and the winters in the parish of St Stephen Walbrook.

A Baronet who could afford homes in Essex and London still suffered numerous child deaths. Of their eleven children, eight died in their minority, with only three daughters surviving to “lament with their sorrowful mother, the great loss of so indulgent a father”.

The bust of Percivall Gilbourne …

Described in the excellent Bob Speel website as follows: ‘A short Latin inscription on a panel with a colourful marble surround … We see a noble bewigged head of an ageing man, firm of countenance and strong of neck, but with something of a jowl, above shoulders and chest wearing a drape rather than contemporary clothing’.

I make no apology for writing again about this brave man ..

Nathaniel Hodges was a 36-year-old doctor practising in London when the terrible plague of 1665 reached the City. Its arrival prompted a flight from London and, Hodges recalled later, this included four-fifths of the College of Physicians. The City was awash, he said, with ‘Chymists’ and ‘Quacks’ dispensing, as he put it: ‘… medicines that were more fatal than the plague and added to the numbers of the dead.’

Dr Hodges decided to stay and minister to his patients and first thing every morning before breakfast he spent two or three hours with them. He wrote later …

Some (had) ulcers yet uncured and others … under the first symptoms of seizure all of which I endeavoured to dispatch with all possible care …

hardly any children escaped; and it was not uncommon to see an Inheritance pass successively to three or four Heirs in as many Days.

After hours of visiting victims where they lived he walked home and, after dinner, saw more patients until nine at night and sometimes later.

He survived the epidemic and wrote two learned works on the plague. The first, in 1666, he called An Account of the first Rise, Progress, Symptoms and Cure of the Plague being a Letter from Dr Hodges to a Person of Quality. The second was Loimologia, published six years later …

A later edition of Dr Hodges’ work, translated from the original Latin and published when the plague had broken out in France.

It seems particularly sad to report that his life ended in personal tragedy when, in his early fifties, his practice dwindled and fell away. Finally he was arrested as a debtor, committed to Ludgate Prison, and died there, a broken man, in 1688.

The Latin on his memorial translates as follows:

Learn to number thy days, for age advances with furtive step, the shadow never truly rests. Seeking mortals, born that they might succumb, the executioner comes from behind. While you breathe you are a victim of death; you know not the hour in which your fate will call you. While you look at monuments, time passes irrevocably. In this tomb is laid the physician Nathaniel Hodges in the hope of heaven; now a son of earth, who was once a son of Oxford. May you survive the plague by his writings. Born 13 September AD 1629 Died 10 June 1688.

There are two glass display cases in the church.

This model allows the overall design of the church to be appreciated, not easy when viewed from outside …

For example. this is the view from the south …

Inside in another glass case you’ll see this famous phone …

You can read more about it and Dr Varah in my April 2018 blog.

As you leave and walk down the steps, look to your left and you will see a modern mosaic of St Stephen …

I would like to finish with a quotation that I particularly like from the church’s own publication setting out its history.

Wren considered geometry to be the basis of the whole world and the manifestation of its Creator, while light not only made that geometry visible but also represented the gift of Reason, of which geometry was for him the highest expression. Like the solution to a mathematical problem, everything fits into place with apparent simplicity; yet this simplicity itself is mysterious and magical. Whether one experiences St. Stephen’s alone, in stillness and quiet, or in a full congregation resounding with music, the effect is always the same. Life outside is complicated and chaotic. To enter is not to escape into fantasy; rather is it to submit to the strongest positive assertion of the true order of the universe.

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Why WFH when you can WFC?

WFC? Working From Church, of course!

Forever trying to move with the times, some of the City churches have adapted brilliantly to take advantage of new technology which allows people to work virtually anywhere. This has also enabled me to indulge two of my main passions – churches and their history and cake.

St Nicholas Cole Abbey was the first church to be rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire (1672-78). You can see one of its most interesting features before you actually go in the door. The beautiful galleon weathevane came from St Michael Queenhithe, another Wren church, demolished in 1876 under the Union of Benefices Act 1860 …

The view from the south side of Queen Victoria Street …

The interior is spacious and light …

My orange and cranberry cake was delicious and tasted home-made. The tea was good too (£6.70 in total – well, it is the City!) …

A striking ‘wall’ of innovative, modern glass depicts Christ’s Kingdom Spreading throughout the World (1962). Abstract elements connect all three windows with details of landscapes from across the globe at their base. Igloos, tepees and skyscrapers for the Americas, towers and domes for Europe, and minarets and domes for Africa and Asia …

The maker was Keith New (1926-2012), a pioneering British modernist stained glass artist. His career was launched by the 1952 Royal College of Art commission to design the windows for Coventry Cathedral.

On the way to the loo you encounter some old grave markers that have been re-sited on the floor ..

Somerset Place was a very posh address in the 18oos – no wonder Mrs Stewart wanted it on her gravestone.

Onward to St Mary Aldermary and its witty advertising board …

It was 12:15 when I got there and there was already a formidable queue for the food stall in the churchyard …

Before you head into the church, look down at what I believe is the most accurate grave marker in the City …

There is a well preserved coat of arms which includes four beavers suggesting involvement in the fur trade which was flourishing at the time. It’s a tribute to the quality of the stone and the carving that (even assuming it wasn’t laid until Henry died) it has survived so well after 200 years of footfall.

Under the coat of arms the inscription reads as follows …

Mrs Anna Catharina Schneider. Died 15th of June 1798 at half past Six O’clock in the Evening. Aged 57 Years, 3 months and 9 Days

I have written more about this memorial and others in my ‘favourite tombs’ blog from February 2021.

Having looked down outside the door, look up on entering and admire the fabulous intricate fan-vaulted ceiling that I wrote about in last week’s blog

The cafe food selection …

There’s plenty of room to sit in the church …

St Mary-le-Bow is just 100 yards or so to the north. This is the view from Cheapside …

You can see the dragon weathervane very well on a sunny day like this …

The cafe in the crypt …

The menu is very comprehensive and you can view it here.

As I walked down the steps to the cafe I was struck by the incredibly worn nature of the stone – this could well have been the crypt entrance long before the 1666 Great Fire and Wren’s rebuilding of the church …

The church was totally gutted during the Blitz but it’s very much worth a visit to see the beautiful post-war stained glass. For example, to the north (left) of the sanctuary is depicted the Patron of the parish, the Blessed Virgin Mary, holding (and thus symbolising her care for us) the church built by Wren. She is clothed in blue (the traditional colour for Our Lady) and her feet appear to be resting on the arches of the crypt. Surrounding Our Lady’s image are seventeen Wren churches which survived the Second World War, each held by the patron saint of the parish …

You’ll find her and other fabulous examples of City church stained glass in my blog dedicated to the subject.

Alongside the church is another set of steps …

This is a place for silent prayer and contemplation …

I was fascinated by some of the gravestones …

And the fine collection of heraldic symbols …

And last, but by no means least, St Mary Woolnoth, designed by Christopher Wren’s esteemed protégé Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661 – 1736) …

The food service area is tucked away just inside the door …

Do visit the interior where you can admire the memorial to John Newton, the reformed slave trader who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace …

The stunning, bulging pulpit dates from Hawksmoor’s time and Newton delivered his sermons from it. It was made by Thomas Darby and Gervaise Smith …

Don’t miss the 1810 ‘price list’ hanging on the west wall …

You can eat outside and watch the world go by. The air is a lot cleaner now that Bank Junction is closed to most traffic …

I have written about St Mary Woolnoth before and you can find my blog here.

Now, an important message: It has been proven time and time again that music, particularly live music, can have immense beneficial psychological effects. This is especially true for folk who may be feeling isolated or are experienceing dementia. And it’s not just the elderly who can benefit, but also young people who may be spending much of their life receiving care in hospital. There is a lovely charity, the Spitz Charitable Trust, who have delivered this life enhancing service for over ten years and, because I love what they do, I am for the first time promoting a charity in my blog. All charities are having tough times at the moment so do, please, see if you can make a contribution, however modest, to help them in their work. Click here for their crowdfunding page and to find out more about them.

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St Stephen Walbrook – The Samaritans, Sir Henry Moore and a brave doctor.

One day in 1936 a young priest officiated at his first funeral – a 14 year old girl who had killed herself because, when her periods started, she thought it was a sign of a sexually transmitted disease. That there seemed to have been no one she could talk to had a profound effect on him, but it was not until 18 years later that, as he put it,

I read somewhere there were three suicides a day in Greater London. What were they supposed to do if they didn’t want a Doctor or Social Worker … ? What sort of a someone might they want?

He looked at his phone, ‘DIAL 999 for Fire, Police or Ambulance’ it said …

There ought to be an emergency number for suicidal people, I thought. Then I said to God, be reasonable! Don’t look at me… I’m possibly the busiest person in the Church of England.

When the priest, Chad Varah, was offered charge of the parish of St Stephen in the summer of 1953 he knew that the time was right for him to launch what he called a ‘999 for the suicidal’. He was, in his own words, ‘a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone’. The first call to the new service was made on 2nd November 1953 and this date is recognised as Samaritans’ official birthday.

The Reverend Dr Chad Varah at his telephone – you just had to dial MAN 9000.

It soon became obvious that the volunteers, who used to keep people company whilst they were waiting to speak to Chad, were also capable of helping in their own right and in February 1954 he officially handed over the task of supporting the callers to them.

If you visit the church you can see the phone itself …

St Stephen Walbrook (rebuilt 1672-80) was one of Wren’s largest and earliest churches and the meticulous care taken with it might, some suggest, be because Sir Christopher lived next door. Incidentally, Mr Pollixifen, who lived on the other side, bitterly complained about the building taking his light. Maybe he was mollified when the the church’s internal beauty was revealed.

Views towards St Stephen’s have opened up since completion of the new development on Walbrook, which also houses a meticulously restored Temple of Mithras (see my 25th January 2018 blog: The Romans in London – Mithras, Walbrook and the Games).

Looking at the exterior one can see the lovely green Byzantine style dome …

The interior is bright, intimate and stunning, old Victorian stained glass having been removed …

Wren’s dome and Sir Henry Moore’s altar

The dome was the first of its kind in any English church and a forerunner of Wren’s work on St Paul’s Cathedral. After being damaged in the Blitz the church was restored by Godfrey Allen in 1951-52. Controversy broke out when, between 1978 and 1987, the church was re-ordered under the sponsorship of churchwarden Peter (later Lord) Palumbo and a striking ten tonne altar by Sir Henry Moore was placed at its centre.

Sometimes I look at church memorial plaques and, if they are entirely in Latin, just rather lazily move on. In this case it was a big mistake since I was ignoring a tribute to a very brave man …

Dr Nathaniel Hodges’ memorial on the north wall. Photograph: Bob Speel.

The Great Plague of 1665-1666 was the worst outbreak in England for over 300 years and London probably lost getting on for 20% of its population. While 68,596 deaths were recorded in the city, the true number was most likely to be over 100,000. Those who could, usually the professionals and the wealthy, fled the city and this included four-fifths of the College of Physicians. Charles II and his courtiers left in July for Hampton Court and then Oxford where Parliament also relocated in October,

Nathaniel Hodges was a 36-year-old doctor practising in London when the pestilence reached the City. London was awash, he said later, with ‘Chymists’ and ‘Quacks’ dispensing, as he put it: ‘… medicines that were more fatal than the plague and added to the numbers of the dead.’

Dr Hodges decided to stay and minister to the sick and dying.

First thing every morning before breakfast he spent two or three hours with his patients. He wrote later …

Some (had) ulcers yet uncured and others … under the first symptoms of seizure all of which I endeavoured to dispatch with all possible care …

hardly any children escaped; and it was not uncommon to see an Inheritance pass successively to three or four Heirs in as many Days.

After hours of visiting victims where they lived he walked home and, after dinner, saw more patients until nine at night and sometimes later.

He survived the epidemic and wrote two learned works on the plague. The first, in 1666, he called An Account of the first Rise, Progress, Symptoms and Cure of the Plague being a Letter from Dr Hodges to a Person of Quality. The second was Loimologia, published six years later …

The above is a later edition of Dr Hodges’ work, translated from the original Latin and published when the plague had broken out in France.

It seems particularly sad to report that his life ended in personal tragedy when, in his early fifties, his practice dwindled and fell away. Finally he was arrested as a debtor, committed to Ludgate Prison, and died there, a broken man, in 1688.

Translated from the Latin, his memorial reads as follows:

Learn to number thy days, for age advances with furtive step, the shadow never truly rests. Seeking mortals, born that they might succumb, the executioner comes from behind. While you breathe you are a victim of death; you know not the hour in which your fate will call you. While you look at monuments, time passes irrevocably. In this tomb is laid the physician Nathaniel Hodges in the hope of heaven; now a son of earth, who was once a son of Oxford. May you survive the plague by his writings. Born 13 September AD 1629 Died 10 June 1688.

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It’s Christmas decorations time – let’s get into the Festive spirit!

Wandering around the streets on a quiet Sunday afternoon at this time of year can be rather atmospheric and got me into quite a Christmassy mood.

This year there are a number of installations that you can walk into.

The ‘Happy House’ at City Point …

The ‘Bauble’ in the churchyard of Holy Sepulchre Church …

The arch at One New Change …

The ‘tree’ at the same location is as pretty as usual …

As is the view of St Paul’s …

The tree outside nearby St Mary-le-Bow …

Also in the churchyard …

At this time of year offices look a bit cosier than usual …

I wonder what’s going to be put in the big red stockings – this year’s bonus maybe (it is a bank!) …

The Shard, looking up from ground level …

… and a small selection of the constantly changing light display on the upper levels …

And finally, this year’s Barbican Christmas tree …

Remember, next week is the Christmas Quiz, so it’s time to do a bit of swotting since the questions will all be about blogs published in 2023.

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St Bartholomew the Less – an arithmetical memorial and some very spectacular tights!

Poor St Bartholomew the Less has had a tough time (EC1A 9DS). Designated ‘the less’ to distinguish it from its better known namesake nearby, it has also had to be substantially rebuilt a number of times including the need to repair damage inflicted in the Blitz. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating place containing many interesting historical monuments.

To find its modest doorway you must enter the grounds of St Bartholomew’s hospital through the Henry VIII gates and look to your left. Inside a rather spooky white hand directs you up stairs to the main body of the church …

It was once a parish church in its own right, the parish boundary being the walls of the hospital. The parishioners were made up of the hospital staff and patients and at one time attendance at services was compulsory for all who were fit enough. It was the only parish of this nature in existence but since 2015, however, it has become part of the Parish of St Bartholomew the Great.

There are many features to admire but, for reasons of space, I have tried to pick some of the most interesting and will look at others in a future blog.

This stained glass commemorates the founding of he monastic complex of St Bartholomew in 1123. The person responsible was Rahere, a courtier to Henry I, who was inspired by a vision of the saint whilst recovering from a serious illness …

Rahere is shown kneeling and beneath his cassock is rather a surprise. He is wearing some very colourful tights, a reference to the fact that he’s often referred to as a minstrel or jester as well as a courtier …

High up on the south wall is the memorial to Robert Balthrope, Sergeant Surgeon to Queen Elizabeth I …

The inscription reads …

Here Robert Balthrope Lyes intombed,
to Elizabeth Our Queene
Who Sergeant of the Surgeons Sworne,
Neere Thirtye Yeeres Hathe Beene
He Died at Sixtye Nine of Yeeres,
Decembers Ninthe The Daye
The Yeere of Grace Eight Hundred Twice

Deductinge Nine A waye.
Let Here His Rotten Bones Repose
Till Angells Trompet Sounde
To Warne The Worlde of Present Chaunge
And Raise the Deade From Grounde.

He died in 1591, but the poet who devised this eulogy presumably had a problem getting 1591 to rhyme with anything. So he chose the frankly odd solution of asking the reader to do some mental arithmetic – ‘The Yeere of Grace Eight Hundred Twice’ (i.e. 800 x 2 = 1600) Deductinge Nine A waye (1600 – 9 = 1591).

The current windows in the church were designed by Hugh Easton, following the loss of the earlier windows during World War Two. Easton was an eminent stained glass maker who also designed the Battle of Britain memorial window in Westminster Abbey. The design of the nurse in the window in Westminster Abbey is strikingly similar to that in the window here …

The doctors’ memorial window …

The mid-19th century alabaster pulpit depicts Christ healing the sick …

On the east wall is the poignant memorial plaque to Arthur Jermyn Landon …

The reflections make it difficult to read so here it is in full …

His former medical contemporaries at St Bartholomew’s Hospital have set up this tablet to keep in memory the bright example of ARTHUR JERMYN LANDON Surgeon Army Medical Department who, while continuing to dress the wounded amid a shower of bullets in the action on Majuba Hill, was in turn mortally wounded. His immediate request to his assistants “I am dying do what you can for the wounded” was characteristic of his unselfish disposition. His habitual life was expressed in the simple grandeur of his death. He was born at Brentwood Essex 29th June 1851. Died two days after the action at Mount Prospect South Africa 1st March 1881.

Here he is in an image of him dated 1881 held at the Wellcome Foundation …

The elaborate memorial to John and Mary Darker (Died 1784 and 1800) …

Before you leave, look to the right of the door and you will see the tomb of Surgeon John Freke (1688-1756) …

English History Online has the following to say …

… a remarkably curious tomb of the fireplace kind, most elaborately wrought. It is the tomb of Freke, the senior surgeon of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, who wrote many works upon surgery, still to be found in its library. His bust is to be seen in the museum of the hospital, and he is represented by Hogarth, in the last plate of “The Stages of Cruelty,” presiding aloft over the dissecting-table, and pointing with a long wand to the dead “subject,” upon whom he is lecturing to the assembled students.

And here it is …

You can read more about Hogarth’s The Four Stages of Cruelty here.

Look back after leaving the church and observe the oldest parts of the building, the 15th-century tower and west end of the church …

Within the tower are three bells, the oldest being cast in 1380. The bells are hung in the original wooden frame thought to be the oldest in London.

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The oldest Catholic church in England (and do you know anyone called Audrey?)

Last week I mentioned my visit to St Etheldreda’s church in Ely Place and promised to return, which I duly did on a lovely sunny Monday morning this week.

Ely Place was until relatively recently considered to be a part of Cambridgeshire. For centuries, it was an enclave – an area of land physically located in the City of London but not under its jurisdiction. Instead, it was privately owned by the Bishops of Ely, and even today the street has its own gatehouse and beadles …

The houses date from the 1770s.

Tucked away down a narrow passage on the left is the quaint Ye Olde Mitre pub. When I first visited it back in the 1970s it kept shorter ‘Country’ rather than ‘City’ opening hours …

Further north along Ely Place the church of St Etheldreda is set back from the road …

The original name of the saint celebrated here was Æthelthryth and this eventually evolved into Etheldreda which, in turn, sometimes became pronounced Audrey (a girl’s name now somewhat out of fashion). This explains the naming of the late Victorian block of flats called Audrey House that nudge up against the church itself …

The Bishop of Ely once had a palace in London back in the 13th century. To get an idea of the extraordinary wealth of the church before the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, this is a section of the so-called Agas map of 1561 in which my fellow blogger London Inheritance has marked the streets that formed the boundaries to the Bishop’s land …

You can see the name Ely Place and St. Andrew’s church just to the right of where he has marked Holborn.

A private chapel was built alongside the palace dedicated to St Etheldreda, the nun who founded the first religious house in Ely in the 7th Century and is the saint to whom Ely Cathedral was dedicated. The chapel here dates from the late 13th Century and is one of the few buildings in London surviving from the reign of Edward I since it escaped the flames of the Great Fire in 1666 (although it was severely damaged following an air raid during the Second World War).

As soon as you enter you know you are in a rather special place …

Before descending into the crypt, there is an interesting feature just to the right of the door …

It was found when the site was excavated but its original purpose has never been established, although some have suggested it is the remains a Roman font.

Down the steps into the crypt …

When I visited the space was laid out for a function of some kind …

Some of the niches surrounding the venue …

Back upstairs now to the upper church.

On the way you pass a Royal coat of arms which commemorates the reopening of the church after bomb damage repair on 2nd July 1952 …

Also this memorial to William Lockhart

The upper church is a beautiful, spiritual place with some stunning post-War stained glass …

In the centre of the east window is Christ whilst at the apex God the Father surmounts the choir of angels …

To the left of Mary, the Mother of God, stands St Etheldreda, holding an image of the monastery she founded …

The west window is dedicated to the English martyrs. Five martyrs, each holding a palm, stand underneath the Tyburn gallows …

Martyrs hang on the ‘Tyburn Tree’ prior to being ‘drawn and quartered’ …

They are also commemorated with statues standing on corbels along both sides of the upper church. Here are three of them, all executed at Tyburm.

Anne Line, a sempstress, martyred in 1601 …

John Roche, a Thames Waterman, martyred in 1588 …

Edward Jones, a Welsh gentleman, martyred 1590 …

Alas there was no sign of the reliquary containing part of the saint’s ‘uncorrupted’ hand that I mentioned in my last blog. Presumably it’s stored away for safe keeping.

Overall St Ethelreda’s is a calm, welcoming place – ideal for quiet contemplation away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I’d strongly recommend a visit both for that reason and for its historical importance.

If you want to read more about the church and the area go to the excellent London Inheritance blog. If you visit the church do purchase the guide book – it is very well written with excellent illustrations …

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Spooky special edition!

I know Halloween ended a few days ago but it did inspire me to look again at spooky aspects of the City and produce a special edition. I was also enthused by a quite extraordinary house I encountered in a trip to Hampstead which had totally embraced the Halloween spirit. Here’s a sample …

More later.

What better place to start in the City than Samuel Pepys’s ‘own church’, St Olave Hart Street.

It has a really gruesome but stunning churchyard entrance incorporating impaled skulls and crossed bones dated 11th April 1658. The Latin inscription, roughly translated, reads ‘Christ is life, death is my reward‘ and the central skull wears a victory wreath.

Charles Dickens called it ‘St Ghastly Grim’.

It’s even more disturbing becuse the banked-up surface of the churchyard is a reminder that it is still bloated with the bodies of plague victims, and gardeners still turn up bone fragments. Three hundred and sixty five were buried there including Mary Ramsay, who was widely blamed for bringing the disease to London. We know the number because their names were marked with a ‘p’ in the parish register.

Note how much higher the graveyard is than the floor at the church door.

The crypt of the ‘Journalists’ Church’, St Brides in Fleet Street, is home to a fascinating museum containing an extraordinary coffin …

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 watchhouses 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. A tempting advertisement …

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.

St Brides also contains a charnel house, only opened by special arrangement. As you walk around the crypt, bear in mind that there are quite a few old Londoners resting nearby …

The primary customers for fresh corpses were the trainee surgeons at St Bartholomew’s Hospital so it’s no surprise that the nearby church of St Sepulchre had its own watchhouse. Sadly this was destroyed in the Blitz but there is a charming replica that you can see today …

Just around the corner is the entrance to the church so do call in if you can and visit a grim reminder of the days of the notorious Newgate Gaol and public executions.

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 …

About five minutes’ walk away is the beautiful church of St Bartholomew the Great inside which is what I think is one of the most disturbing sculptures in the City …

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 …

There’s nothing like a nice relic – even if it’s not on open display.

This is St Ethelreda’s Roman Catholic church in Ely Place (a road strange in its own right since it is privately managed by its own body of commissioners and beadles) …

The building is one of only two surviving in London from the reign of Edward I and dates from between 1250 and 1290. It is dedicated to Aethelthryth or Etheldreda, the Anglo-Saxon saint who founded the monastery at Ely in 673. According to the story, sixteen years after she died of the plague her body was exhumed in 695 and was found to be pure and uncorrupted with even her clothes having miraculous properties. Although her body has been lost it is said that her uncorrupted hand still rests in a casket in this church.

Unfortunately, this reliquary is kept beside the high altar and I couldn’t gain access so we must make do with an online image …

Nevertheless, it wasn’t a wasted visit. The church is a fascinating place as can be seen from some of the images I did take …

So I shall be back.

And finally, the Hampstead house on Flask Walk that truly embraced the spirit of Halloween.

Disabling the burglar alarm …

Hilarious!

The gang’s all here …

Welcome!

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We are but shadows – City Sundials

I was browsing the British Sundial Society website (as you do) and it inspired me to look for examples of these elegant devices in the City. My research also took me on a bit of a journey around Spitalfields, which I hope you enjoy reading about.

Sundials measure local solar time, and were the only source of time for business and government before the invention of the clock, and even then were used to check clock accuracy whilst the mechanisms were still being perfected. The coming of the railways in the early 19th century meant that time needed to be consistently measured throughout the country, and this speeded up clock development. Sundials, however, survived in many places, and are still being manufactured today, serving both a practical purpose along with being aesthetically pleasing.

There are some fine examples in the City, measuring out the minutes using the shadow cast by the sun as it appears to move from east to west, reaching its zenith at mid-day.

On the corner of 107 Cheapside

Completed in 1958 for the Sun Life Assurance Society, the two dials incorporate the company’s sunburst logo.The south facing sundial has the letters GMT under the sun face and covers hours from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. The west facing sundial also shows the letters GMT in the bottom right corner of the dial and covers the hours 2:00 in the afternoon until 7:00 in the evening.

The building will be familiar to any of you who have had a chance to look at the signs of the Zodiac arranged around its main entrance and described my earlier blog Looking at the Stars.

Sundial Court, Chiswell Street

Once part of the Whitbread Brewery, this dial is now behind locked security gates but is still visible from the road. It is made of wood, with its motto ‘Such is Life’, dating back to 1771. Around the sides it has the interesting inscription Built 1758, burnt 1773, rebuilt 1774.

There is a late 17th Century dial on St Sepulchre’s, Holborn Viaduct.

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, junction of Snow Hill and Holborn Viaduct

The dial 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. It shows Winter time from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm in 15 minute marks. I thought it was curious that the 4:00 pm mark is represented as IIII rather than IV – I have no idea why. Across the road is the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey) where once stood the notorious Newgate Prison. I wondered if the Newgate executioner might have taken the time from this dial to help him decide when to start the journey to Tyburn scaffold, along with his unfortunate condemned prisoners. (You can read about my recent tour of the Old Bailey here).

If you visit the church, do have a look at the corner of the churchyard where you will find London’s first public drinking fountain as described in another of my earlier blogs Philanthropic Fountains. You also get a good view of Lady Justice, atop the Old Bailey across the road.

Whenever I visit the Inns of Court I like to enter by one of the old gates in Fleet Street – it really is like stepping back in time, from the bustle of the City to the leafy, collegiate atmosphere of the Inns.

A Fleet Street entrance designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The Lamb and Flag is the emblem of Middle temple.

Lane leading from Fleet Street into the Inns

I read somewhere that Dr Johnson used to enjoy swinging round these supporting pillars when he was in an ebullient mood!

There are two fine sundials nearby.

Pump Court, Middle Temple

Reminding the lawyers of their mortality.

And in Fountain Court …

‘Learn justice you who are now being instructed’

The TWT refers to the Middle Temple Treasurer in 1684, William Thursby, a successful lawyer and later MP. He spoke of the study of law as ‘a rough and unpleasant study at the first, but honourable and profitable in the end … as pleasant (and safe and sure) as any profession’.

And now my two favourites.

The Jacobean church of St Katharine Cree in Leadenhall Street was built between 1628 and 1630 and survived the Great Fire of 1666. On the south wall is this wonderful dial, circa 1700, which is described as having ‘gilded embellishments including declining lines, Babylonian/Latin hours and Zodiac signs’. Its Latin motto Non Sine Lumine means Nothing without Light.

And finally, this dial in Fournier Street.

Once a Protestant church, then a Methodist Chapel, next a Jewish synagogue and now the Brick Lane Mosque

In the late 17th century some 40-50,000 French Protestants, known as Huguenots, fleeing persecution in France, arrived in England with around half settling in Spitalfields. They started a local silk-weaving industry and, incidentally, gave us a new word ‘refugee’ from the French word réfugié, ‘one who seeks sanctuary’. They flourished and established this church in 1743 naming it La Neuve Eglise (The New Church) and installed the sundial we can see today with the poignant inscription Umbra Sumus – ‘We are shadows’.

Typical weavers’ houses in Fournier Street

Driven out by the decline of the weaving trade and anti-French feeling, the Huguenots slowly dispersed and their church was for a while taken over by ‘The London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews’. Not being very successful, they moved out after ten years and the next tenants were John Wesley’s Methodists, who refurbished the building.

From the 1880s onwards, the East End population underwent another significant upheaval as thousands of Jews arrived fleeing poverty, pogroms, war and revolution. Many settled  in Spitalfields and Whitechapel, close to where they arrived in the docks, setting up numerous businesses.

‘Ghost sign’ for Amelia Gold’s business, 42 Brushfield Street

Built in the 1780s, in the 1880s this shop was once the business premises of a Jewish immigrant from Hungary, a lady called Amelia Gold. Describing herself as a ‘milliner’ indicates that she was a very accomplished, professional maker of ladies’ hats rather than simply a retailer.

The famous entertainer Bud Flanagan was born nearby. His parents Wolf and Yetta (Kitty) Weintrop were Polish Jews who set off for New York in order to flee the pogroms. Sadly for them, a dishonest ticket agent sold them a ticket that only took them as far as London, where they eventually set up a barber shop and tobacconist.

12 Hanbury Street

By the late 19th Century the Methodists had left and the building became the Spitalfields Great Synagogue. However, as the 20th century wore on, many Jews were leaving the East End and the synagogue relocated to Golders Green in 1970. During the 1970s, the area became populated mainly by Bangladeshis who had come to Britain looking for work and often found it in factories and the textile trade. That growing community required a place of worship, and the building was bought and refurbished. In 1976, it reopened as a mosque, the London Jamme Masjid. Today, although it has been renamed, it still serves the Bangladeshi community as a mosque.

A while ago, The Economist ran an article about multicultural London and I would like to end with two quotes from it that I particularly liked since they reference the building.

Because it is a human entrepôt, Spitalfields remains one of London’s poorest and most conservative districts; but now, for the same reason, it is also among the hippest. When old men in traditional dress congregate beneath the mosque’s prophetic sundial, immodestly clad young women weave between them

And …

The mosque is a bricks-and-mortar correction to those Britons who think that immigration is a new and harmful phenomenon

Well said.

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A wander around Whitecross Street and Old Street (plus my old record collection!)

To start with I lingered among the street-food stalls that appear every weekday and seem to do a roaring trade now that City workers are back (even though many of them only come in Tuesdays to Thursdays).

My favourite stand …

Lots more to choose from …

Some are award winners!

Spring by Jimmy C – nice to see this mural without cars parked in front of it …

Miaow!

More street art …

One of my favourites ..

Made me smile …

The following words in italics come from the St Luke’s Conservation area document. The images are mine.

Central and pivotal to the conservation area St. Luke’s Church, dating from
1733, designed by John James and Nicholas Hawksmoor, is one of London’s
most important churches.

The church is now refurbished as a rehearsal,concert and education centre for the London Symphony Orchestra. The unusual obelisk spire is a major local landmark, with important views downWhitecross Street.

Surrounding the church is the churchyard and burial ground, now a public open space, with fine plane trees, railings and tombs.

Fronting onto these spaces are several important groups of Georgian and Victorian buildings which are of architectural and historic interest and which contribute to the setting of the church.

There is a tomb in the churchyard which is often described as the family tomb of William Caslon (1692-1766) …

He was the first major letter founder in London and, nearly three centuries later, remains the pre-eminent letter founder this country has produced. Before Caslon, there was little letter founding in Britain and most type was imported – even Shakespeare’s First Folio was printed with French type. But Caslon’s achievement was to realise designs and produce type which have been widely used ever since. And it all happened here, around the eastern fringes of the City of London. The Caslon family tomb stood just yards from where William Caslon started his first letter foundry in Helmet Row in 1727.

Here is a specimen of his typefaces from 1734 …

There is a special edition of the Spitalfields Life blog devoted just to him – William Caslon, Letter Founder.

However, when I looked more closely at the tomb inscription, the name I saw was Thomas Hanbey …

A mystery!

But here’s a quote from The Typefoundry blog of December 2007 (my emphasis) …

‘T. B. Reed … wrote that the Caslon tomb was kept in repair by a bequest from Mary Hanbey, daughter of William Caslon I, who died in January 1797. In fact it is clear from her will that the present tomb, which she paid for, replaced the original monument of the Caslon family, and was dedicated to her husband Thomas Hanbey, who had been born in Sheffield and died in 1786. He was a Liveryman of the Ironmongers’ Company and Master of the Company in 1775 …’

In any event, hopefully the remains of the remarkable Mr Caslon are still there somewhere, so I shall keep my tribute to him in this blog.

The church spire was topped by an unusual weather vane depicting the head of a dragon with a fiery comet-like tail. Apparently this was misinterpreted locally as a louse, and by the mid-20th century had gained the church the nickname ‘lousy St Luke’s’ …

Parish Boundary bollard for ‘St Luke’s Middlesex’ …

Walking east along Old street, look up for the Salvation Army ghost sign …

‘Hostel for working men. Cheap beds and food’.

And finally, number 116, now appropriately renamed Stylus, used to be the Margolin Gramophone Company factory …

They manufactured the Dansette record player – a name very familiar to us baby-boomers …

I had a portable one just like this …

Cool!!!

In those days I could pop some of my vinyl collection into a handy little carrying case and take it when visiting friends. And, guess what, I still have it! …

And there are still records in it …

A small sample …
It was my mum who liked The Bachelors, honest.

This was a very controversial 1965 hit around the world …

Listen to it and you will see why. It was the time of the Vietnam War and the year when Martin Luther King organised a march from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama, which began on 7 March 1965 with around 600 marchers taking part. When the marchers reached the outskirts of Selma they were attacked by state troopers and local police.

Here’s a link to the recording along with video footage.

The Wikipedia link about the song can be found here.

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It’s Christmas decorations time – let’s get in the mood!

Yes, it’s that time when I go out and about trying to capture a bit of decorative joy before the Festive Season begins in earnest.

And what better place to start than the stunning display at the Leadenhall Building, fondly known by all as The Cheesegrater …

I love the arch through the tree …

It’s also home to Emma Smith’s neon artwork We (2019).

We are alone …

We are all one …

Read all about the thoughts behind its design here.

Whilst there I enjoyed a rather lovely lunch at Bob Bob Ricard which is situated on the third floor …

The view from the lift …

The Gherkin, my favourite modern City building …

Another beautiful piece of architecture, King’s Cross Station …

Outside the Station …

At The Landmark Hotel …

On London Wall …

Illumino at City Point …

Also at City Point …

At the Barbican …

Just off Bishopsgate …

And finally, something a bit bonkers near Great Ormond Street that made me smile …

Little aliens have landed on a post box …

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At the Museum of the Order of St John. How a drowned lady gained immortality.

Consider this lady’s beautiful serene face …

Known as LInconnue de la Seine, read on further in the blog to discover her story and how she became world famous.

One has to acknowledge that, when walking through Clerkenwell, this building comes as a bit of a surprise …

The plaque reveals its history …

The museum that now occupies the building is a treat and entry is free. It tells the fascinating story of this famous organisation, from its origins in Jerusalem over 900 years ago to today’s modern St John Ambulance service. I only visited a small part of the museum so will be returning and aiming to take part in a guided tour.

The first exhibits you see…

The Order’s motto today is Pro Fide, Pro Utilitate Hominum – For the Faith and in the Service of Humanity. This duty of care is just as relevant today as it was 900 years ago in Jerusalem. The principles of the Order can be summarised in three words, which are inscribed on the central podium shown in the image above.

Faith – Like monks, the first Brothers of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem vowed to be poor, chaste and obedient …

Care – They took one other vow – to honour and care for the sick and the poor

Valour – Most of the Brothers were Knights trained in the arts of war. They used these skills to defend the Holy Land …

From the earliest times, the Order had female members. St Ubaldesca joined at Pisa around 1150 and after her death in 1205 she was canonised for her lifelong devotion to the care of others. This painting, from the 1600s, depicts her in a pious pose wearing the robes of the order …

I really like this poster from the 1950s representing as it does the spread of the modern Order throughout the world, initially via the British Empire …

A 1955 portrait of a St John Ambulance Brigade Officer and Nurse …

There’s definitely even more of a hint of Florence Nightingale and her lamp in this painting …

These two examples of suits of armour date from the 1500s to the 1800s but they broadly represent the kind of protection worn by the opposing forces during the Order’s long struggle with the Ottoman Empire.

The Turks favoured mail shirts …

The plate armour worn by European knights offered better protection but it was heavy, inflexible and – under the Mediterranean sun – soon became uncomfortably hot …

Siege relics …

A magnificent 16th century banqueting table decoration that once belonged to the treasury of the Knights of Malta in Valletta ..

The Ashford Litter …

A breakthrough in the transportation of patients allowing them to be moved comfortably by a single person.

The order played a pivotal role in caring for casualties in the First World War …

Just one of a number of display cabinets …

The triangular bandage is a staple component of first aid kits with many different uses. In the late 19th century the St John Ambulance Association started providing printed versions demonstrating how to use it …

Also in the cabinet there is an evocative painting from 1917 of a ward at the St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital, Étaples. The blanket of each bed is emblazoned with the eight-pointed cross of St John …

The insignia can be seen again on a red plaque above each bed, naming the donor who provided funds for it …

The Hospital in Étaples was the largest voluntary hospital serving the British Expeditionary Force during the First World War. It had a staff of 241, all from the St John Ambulance Brigade, and was considered by all who knew it to be the best designed and equipped military hospital in France, caring for over 35,000 patients throughout the war. On the night of the 19th May 1918, the hospital was hit by a bomb which killed five members of staff. Shortly after, on 31st May, a second bomb hit the hospital, resulting in eleven deaths and sixty casualties.

In April 1945, Ada Evelyn-Brown was one of a group of St John Ambulance nurses sent to care for newly liberated prisoners at the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in north-west Germany. Her photograph album is on display at the museum …

Finally, to a beautiful but tragic lady.

This is the face of a young woman found drowned in the River Seine in Paris in the late 1880s. No one could identify the body, but the pathologist reportedly became fascinated with her serene expression and commissioned a death mask. Soon multiple reproductions were on sale throughout Paris …

In the 1950s a Norwegian toymaker, Asmund Laerdal, was commissioned to produce a mannequin in which people could practise mouth-to-mouth and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Seeking a non-threatening model, he chose LInconnue and when his mannequin was mass-produced she became world-famous for a second time, known to this day as ‘Resusci Anne’.

I loved my visit to the museum and highly recommend it.

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St Martin Within Ludgate – Wren’s least altered church (containing some clever word games and the remains of a 17th century food bank).

One of the most striking aspects about St Martin Within Ludgate is its tall, sharp leaded spire which, when seen from the lower part of Fleet Street, is a deliberate foil to the massive rounded dome of St Paul’s Cathedral …

The slim Portland stone exterior facing onto Ludgate Hill was designed by Wren to be best seen from the side …

I think the church suffers a bit because people walking past are more likely to be focused on St Paul’s and therefore miss the modest entrance to St Martin’s. There is a large entrance lobby (designed to reduce traffic noise inside the church) and you then enter one of Sir Christopher Wren’s least altered interiors (1677-1686) with fine dark woodwork which largely escaped the Blitz.

Look up and you will see this beautiful chandelier or candelabrum which is still lit by candles …

As one commentator has noticed, it looks more like something you would find in a country house or a ballroom. The candles were not lit when I visited but I am sure that when they are, on a dark morning or evening, one must get a real feel for what it was like to worship here in earlier centuries. It came to the church via St Vincent’s Cathedral in the West Indies, probably in 1777: a reminder of the links between the City’s trading economy and the British Empire overseas.

And now to the very unusual font and the first word game …

The bowl is white marble and the wooden supporting plinth is painted to look like stone. It dates from 1673, predating the church, and was previously located in a ‘tabernacle’ used by the congregation during the rebuilding.

It contains a Greek palindrome copied from the Cathedral of St Sophia in Constantinople:

Niyon anomhma mh monan oyin

(Cleanse my sin and not my face only)

The second word game is associated a plaque that was originally housed in St Mary Magdalene’s on Old Fish Street which burned down in 1888. I am indebted, as I often am, to the blogger A London Inheritance who pointed out in his blog something I missed when I first visited the church.

The plaque records a charity set up by Elizabethan fish monger Thomas Berry, or Beri. He is seen on the left of the plaque, and to the right are ten lines of text, followed by two lines which describe the charity:

“XII Penie loaves, to XI poor foulkes. Gave every Sabbath Day for aye”

The plaque is dated 1586, and the charity was set up in his will of 1601 which left his property in Edward Street, Southwark to St Mary Magdalen, with the instruction that the rent should be used to fund the loaves. The recipients of the charity were not in London, but were in Walton-on-the-Hill (now a suburb of Liverpool), a village that Berry seems to have had some connection with. The charity included an additional sum of 50s a year to fund a dinner for all the married people and householders of the town of Bootle.

The interesting lines of text are above those which describe the charity. Thomas seems to have spelled his last name either Berry or Beri and these ten lines of anti-papist verse include his concealed name.

St Martin Ludgate

I am a big fan of helpful signage …

The reredos …

… and the communion rails …

There is magnificent carving on the pulpit …

It’s original to the church (1680), made of oak and hexagonal in shape. Each face has an oval panel inlay with rich swags of fruit and flowers carved at the angles …

The sword rest is 18th century wrought iron and is also from St Mary Magdalene like Berry’s plaque. It was seriously damaged in the fire that destroyed the church and is much restored …

Another refugee from St Mary’s is a set of 17th century bread shelves. They would have hung from one of the walls on the entrance porch. After morning service wealthy parishioners would place bread on the shelves for the poor of the parish to collect …

As you can see, they have now been repurposed.

Also on display is one of the bells from the post Great Fire rebuild. Resting on an iron chest, the bell dates from 1683 and was a ‘Gift of William Warne, Scrivener to the Parish of St Martin’s Ludgate’ …

There are four beautifully carved door surrounds illustrating the great skill of the craftsmen of the late 1600s – in this case joiner William Grey and carver William Emmett …

On this one they have (perhaps rather cheekily) included an open pea pod which was a mark commonly associated with the great Master Carver Grinling Gibbons

Here we are sternly ‘admonished’ to imitate the virtues ‘for thine own sake’ of the late John Purcas and his ‘deserving partner’ Anna …

And finally, these made me smile. Presumably people had been nicking their coat hangers – you can’t trust anyone these days …

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St Margaret Pattens – supporting ladies in more ways than one. And what did a Garbler do?

St Margaret’s church (EC3M 1HS) was originally built in the twelfth century, subsequently rebuilt in the sixteenth, and repaired in the early seventeenth. Here it is in the modified version of the Agas Map of 1633 …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113.

When the church was rebuilt in the 16th century a cross, or ‘rood’, was put outside – those who prayed to it (and contributed to the cost of rebuilding) received a pardon from the Pope for their sins. During the reformation such practices were frowned upon and the antiquarian John Stow writes ‘about the 23rd of May, in the morning … it was found to have been in the night preceding, by people unknown, broken all to pieces, together with the tabernacle wherein it had been placed’. The street on which the church stood, however, had already become known as Rood Lane …

The spire is very imposing. Completed in 1702 to a height of 199 feet, it is the third highest of the City churches and is the only remaining example of Wren’s lead-covered timber spires….

During my visit, I was very fortunate to meet Chris Moore. Chris is not only the Church Administrator but also holds the office of Beadle of the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers. There could have been no one better qualified to show me around and point out items of interest that I might otherwise have missed.

The church has long had an association with the Pattenmakers Guild and there is an interesting exhibition for visitors to inspect which includes a history of the craft …

Pattens were under-shoes slipped on to protect the wearer’s shoes or clothing – not least from the filth on the streets in the Middle Ages!

If you could afford footwear like this you certainly wouldn’t want it contaminated with street debris …

Incidentally, the next time you see this famous portrait check out the pattens in the foreground …

And supporting ladies?

The Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers was awarded its Royal Charter in 1670, but the Company is first recorded as a trade association for the makers of pattens in 1379 and the trade itself dates from the 12th century or earlier. Its motto, Recipiunt fœminæ sustentacula nobis, means Women receive support from us

Not only that, Saint Margaret of Antioch, after whom the church is named, was the patron of childbirth and pregnant women.

Just inside the entrance are two canopied pews which are unique in the City …

These were for the churchwardens and the initials on either side reflect the name not only of this church (St MP) …

but also St Gabriel Fenchurch (St GF) …

St Gabriel’s was not rebuilt after the Great Fire and was instead amalgamated with St Margaret’s. The Agas map shows the churches’ locations relative to one another …

Stephen Millar has observed that, given the strong rivalry between parishes at this time, it is likely that the division between churchwardens was more than simply physical after 1666. Here’s a peep inside the St Margaret pew …

The church is shared with The Worshipful Company of Basketmakers …

The Stuart royal arms above the door are a particularly exquisite example …

The 19th century reredos in the north-aisle chapel incorporates a beautiful Della Robbia style tondo commemorating former rector Thomas Wagstaffe …

High up on the south wall is a copper cross weighing 3/4 cwt – a copy of the cross on St Paul’s Cathedral –  which used to surmount the spire. Below the  cross is a memorial to King Charles I, with the words ‘Touch not mine anointed’. A tradition of the Church is the commemoration of the death of King Charles at a special service which is held annually on the Thursday closest to 30th January …

Both the lectern (with the unusual feature of an eagle grasping a viper) and the pulpit are examples of the very fine wood carving and wood panelling with which the church is blessed …

The pulpit incorporates a holder for the hourglass once used to time the sermons …

The reredos above the altar contain a painting by the Italian painter Carlo Maratta (1625-1713) depicting Christ with the ministering angels in Gethsemane …

Before I left Chris made sure I visited the very impressive marker for the last resting place of James Donalson …

Donalson, who died in 1685, was the City Garbler who was entrusted with checking the quality of spices sold in the Square Mile. This was an incredibly important and prestigious appointment since nutmeg, for example, was at one time literally worth more than its weight in gold …

As a guild church, St Margaret Pattens has a regular weekday, rather than Sunday congregation, drawn mostly from people who work in offices nearby. As it’s not a parish church, it relies for funds on the generosity of the congregation, local business people, the supporting livery companies and visitors. Making a donation couldn’t be easier since, in the aisle next to the covered pews, you’ll find a facility to simply tap in your contribution using your credit or debit card. There’s also a box for more traditional cash donations.

There are drinks and snacks for sale in the courtyard on Eastcheap during weekdays.

If you want to contact the church for any reason the phone number is 020 7623 6630 and the email address info@stmargaretpattens.org 

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St Mary Abchurch – Wren’s hidden masterpiece.

St Mary’s is tucked away halfway down the narrow Abchurch Lane that links Cannon Street and King William Street (EC4N 7BA). As Stephen Millar has written in his wonderful little book London’s City Churches, to stand in the old churchyard and look at the Dutch influenced red brick exterior it is not hard to imagine yourself back in the 17th century …

Built between 1681 and 1686, this is one of Wren’s greatest parish churches. The interior is almost square, its rich dark woodwork contributing to the intimate atmosphere …

The dome was built during Wren’s experimental period, later perfected on a much larger scale at St Paul’s Cathedral. The dome was painted in 1708 by parishioner William Snow and contains a heavenly choir around the name of God in Hebrew …

It’s very difficult to photograph but I found this image on Pinterest, copyright Rex Harris …

The beautiful reredos features limewood carvings by Grinling Gibbons, the pre-eminent carver of his generation …

The pelican in the centre represents the Eucharist and is also the crest of Corpus Christi College …

Also of note are the original box pews on three sides of the church …

The pulpit (circa 1685) is by William Grey and is one of the finest examples in any City church …

Near the entrance is an original alms box dating from 1694 (three keys were needed to open it!) …

On the front pews are two ceremonial wrought iron sword-rests used to support the civic sword when the Lord Mayor of London attends a service at the church. The arms on the sword-rests are those of two former parishioners who were also Lord Mayors of London, George Scholey (1812) and Samuel Birch (1814). The first …

And the second …

Images courtesy of A London Inheritance.

William Emmett made the wooden Royal Arms …

Along with the font cover …

The font itself is by William Kempster.

The church’s connection with the Fruiterers Company is commemorated by this charming stained glass window …

Outside you’ll find an old hydrant cover from 1841 which incorporates a parish marker. The pipe and outlet are clearly seen in the hole in the centre and only the cover that was originally across this hole is missing …

There’s an old ghost sign too …

It’s a lovely church to visit. There are regular organ recitals and you can grab a coffee and a snack from one of the stalls in the churchyard. Find out more here.

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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 …