Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Pepys Connection

On my final morning in London I walked to the City again but this time I had two definite objectives in mind. The photo above shows Lovat Lane which runs from Eastcheap down to Lower Thames St and gives a real feel of the historic City. It is still cobbled and down the centre where there are two lines of cobblestones would once have run an open sewer. All the photos will enlarge if you click on them.

My first objective was the church of St Olave, Hart St. My reason for visiting it was that the sister of one of my husband's ancestors was baptized here in 1794. Once inside I discovered that it had much more important connections than 4xGt Aunt Matilda!

St Olave's was the church that Samuel Pepys attended when he lived and worked at the Navy Office on Seething Lane which runs along the back of St Olave's. The photograph shows the Pepys Memorial which marks the site of the Navy Office pew, this was in a gallery above the main church. At the end of May each year there is a Commemoration service (Pepys died on May 26th 1703) and a laurel wreath is placed on the Memorial.

This is the memorial that Pepys commissioned after the death of his wife Elizabeth in 1669 at the age of 29. She is looking directly across to the Navy Office pew where her husband would have sat each Sunday. Samuel and Elizabeth are buried together at the East end of the church 'under the Communion table' according to the burial register.

This lovely monument is to Dame Anne Radcliffe who died in 1585.

A rather splendid memorial to Sir James Deane with his three wives. He was a merchant adventurer who made a fortune in India,China and the Spice Islands. He was a very generous benefactor to the poor of all the parishes he had lived in. He died in 1608 and was survived by his third wife .

A detail of the pulpit which is believed to have been carved by the renowned sculptor and wood carver Grinling Gibbons

The rear of the church is a pleasant little refuge from the City streets. Look at the photo closely and notice that there are steps leading down to the South door - this is because the level of the churchyard has risen due to the thousands of burials that have taken place here! There is a plague pit here too, during the Great Plague of London (1665-1666) people were dying at such a rate that there was no time for individual burials and bodies were simply thrown into a pit. A nicer story though is an entry in the burial register in 1586 for a lady known as 'Mother Goose'. She used to knit little boots for her geese so that their feet wouldn't get sore as they were herded to market. Isn't that a lovely story?

The somewhat forbidding entrance into the churchyard from Seething Lane. Built in 1658 these became the gates of 'St Ghastly Grim' in Charles Dickens' book The Uncommercial Traveller. It was fine on a hot, sunny day but I don't think I'd fancy going through there on a dark, wet winter's night!

Directly across the road from the skull ornamented gate is the little garden that marks the site of the Navy Office where Samuel Pepys worked and lived. The stone with the blue plaque on is virtually hidden by the shrubs so I thought I'd better do a close up of it.

St Botolph Bishopsgate was the second of my objectives, my husbands ancestors were being baptized and buried here for over 100 years, the earliest baptism is in 1715 and the latest burial in 1846. The burial ground was turned into a garden in 1863 so there are no graves to find unfortunately.

This is the interior which survived both the Great Fire and the Blitz but was badly damaged by an IRA bomb in 1993 which opened up the roof and destroyed all the doors and windows.

This lovely window was commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Bowyers to mark the restoration of the church.

The eighteenth century font where so many of my husband's ancestors were baptized. The poet John Keats was baptized here as well in 1795.

St Stephen Walbrook is tucked away on a little side street and though it was closed when I passed by on Sunday I was able to go inside on Monday morning. This is another of Wren's churches and he actually lived next door to this one.

The interior is spacious and full of light, the altar in the centre of the church is by Henry Moore and is a rather controversial addition. I really like it which is rather odd as I'm not usually an admirer of modern art. It's utter simplicity seems to fit beautifully into this particular interior though. The marble for the altar came from the quarry near Rome that was used by Michelangelo.

The lovely dome was the first of its kind in any English church and was a sort of trial run for Wren's masterpiece - the dome of St Paul's Cathedral.

Just around the corner from St Stephen's Walbrook is the Temple of Mithras. It was only discovered in 1954 and was actually on Walbrook originally but it was moved to Queen Victoria St as the original site was destined to become office blocks.

By this time I needed to be heading back to my hotel to pick up my suitcase ready for the journey home. On the way though I wanted to try and find Ely Place which is technically still part of Cambridgeshire as it was originally the site of the London Palace of the Bishops of Ely. The entrance to Ely Place is gated and a beadle oversees the comings and goings of people and traffic. As you walk down there is a tiny alley on the left and if you go down the alley you will find this tiny pub. The Mitre was originally built for the servants from the Bishop's Palace but the present building dates from the 1700s in spite of the date on the lantern.

Tucked away at the end of Ely Place is the 13th century church of St Etheldreda once the private chapel of the Bishop's Palace. It is the oldest Roman Catholic church in England.

Around the walls of the church are the statues of eight martyrs who died for their faith during the Reformation. This is St Anne Line, a seamstress executed at Tyburn in 1601 for sheltering a priest.

Here we have John Roche, a Thames waterman executed at Tyburn in 1588 for helping a priest to escape.

The Crypt is thought to date back to the 6th century, there are massive wooden beams and the walls are eight feet thick. It is still in use as a chapel and the font is down here.I think that the two statues in the window embrasures are St Francis and Our Lady.  It was very dark down there so the other photos I took  are too murky to post.
You'll be glad to know that this is the final London post:) It's rather long but as I said in my previous post I use my blog as a record of the places I've visited.

This will be my last post for 3 weeks or so as on Saturday I'm off to visit my elder son and his family in South Africa. If you look for White River on the map that's where my daughter and I will be staying. DH gets to stay home with B Baggins:)

We're hoping to see plenty of these....

.....and lots of spectacular places like this - Mac Mac Falls near Sabie. I'll be back towards the end of March and hopefully will have some interesting photos to share with you.


Von said...

Fascinating post Rowan, have a wo nderful holiday.I'm so relieved BB isn't going to kennels!
Loved the snippet about Mother Goose!! In fact I'd like to post a link to the dog blog if I may.Enjoy.

Hollace said...

You should write a Tour Guide's Book to little-known London. It is wonderful to see such treasures.

Have a great trip.

Thimbleanna said...

Oh Rowan! You're living the life! London and then South Africa -- how very exciting. I've thoroughly enjoyed your London posts -- you're a fountain of information -- thank you so much for sharing. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

Bovey Belle said...

you've made even ME (who hates London) wawnt to go and explore now!

BTW, those two books you sent were devoured here - 24 hrs and 36 hrs per book - I haven't read like that for years! Many thanks - will return them shortly.

Meanwhile, have a fabulous holiday in SA, safe journey, and I look forward to your blogs on your return. (V. slightly envious!)

Roy said...

Your City of London tours are always interesting Rowan. Have a good and safe trip.

Diane said...

Great post Rowan - its not a part of the city that I have ever done. Have a great time on your travels and looking forward to seeing your photos when you return - and perhaps coffee and cake at Wentworth . xxxx

Dartford Warbler said...

Thank you for another fascinating walk around the City. The Wren churches are so beautiful in their neo-classical simplicity. I love the dome at St Stephen`s.

Have safe journeys and a wonderful holiday in South Africa. I`m already looking forward to your photographs!

Mac n' Janet said...

Once again thanks for the tour!
Have a wonderful trip to South Africa, we get to go see our daughter at Easter.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the lovely tour. Such wonderful monuments.
I hope you'll have a safe trip to South Africa and a wonderful stay there. I'm looking forward to another great tour ; )
Have a great day.

Gracie said...

I'd like to post more about London, coz it's a city I truly love, and thank you for showing me places I don't know. I'm sure I will look for them next time I will be there. Have a safe trip to SA and please, post lots of pics when you will be back.

WOL said...

Bon Voyage and safe journey!

debbie bailey said...

I have Samuel Pepys Diary in my stack of TBR books. London is so interesting. You could live there a lifetime and not exhaust all its riches. Have a good trip. I look forward to seeing your pics.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed catching up with you, this morning, Rowan!

Enjoy your trip to South Africa and visiting with your family.

Rosie said...

I've really enjoyed all your recent London posts. I feel that I want to take your blog with me and follow in your footsteps and see all these wonderful historic places. I hope you have a wonderful visit to South Africa:)

Sheila said...

I've really enjoyed my walking tour in London this afternoon, while outside my window it is dull and damp. Very interesting as always Rowan.
Enjoy your visit to your son and his family, there will be lots to tell us on your return I'm sure.
Have a safe and fun trip.

Herbaholic said...

Thanks for this lovely post and for the pictures inside St Etheldreda, I'm a fan of Susanna Gregory's Matthew Bartholomew Chronicles and this church and the Bishops of Ely often feature in the stories. Lovely to finally see them, hopefully I'll get to visit them myself one day, really enjoyed 'going' on your London trip with you, looking forward to sharing your African adventures when you get back!

Herby Hugs - Debs x

Mary said...

Sorry, missed saying bon voyage - hope you are having a fabulous visit. I read about White River online, sounds delightful and, as you're close to Kruger, you most certainly should see some wildlife. I think you may not be too far from Mala Mala where I stayed - and I'm thrilled to say I'll be returning next year, can hardly wait!

Rowan, thank you for yet another marvelous London walk - you make it all sound interesting, and of course being our England, steeped in so much history, it is!!!

Will be looking forward to seeing pics and reading stories of your visit when you return. Have fun.
Hugs - Mary

Lucy said...

Have a wonderful time away. (How can it fail to be wonderful?!)

Doesn't 'Seething Lane' strike a London chime?

I grew up in London but I no longer recognise it either in photographs or in person. It used to be black with soot and for most of my life I thought that was the colour of the stone. Now it is bright and white and lovely in a way I expect it was meant to be but for many years was not.


thesnailgarden said...

Hope you have a wonderful time in South Africa. I look forward to hearing about it on your return. Best wishes, Pj x

Debbie said...



Anonymous said...

Such beautiful places, I hope you are enjoying your stay in SA ... :0)

Daen said...

I love the Pepys posts. My girlfriend and I walked down Lovat Lane shortly before Christmas last year, quite by accident. The construction of the Shard on the South Bank was quite dramatic, but Lovat Lane itself is rather fine. It didn't click that we'd walked past the Pepys's final resting place until just now. I've worked in London for more than 10 years, but had never really gotten the time to explore it (I moved to Copenhagen, then Paris, and now San Francisco), but whenever I get the chance to go back, I make sure to spend at least a day doing so (well, and leaving time for the pubs, of course).