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.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fleet St to The Strand

This is yet another of Sir Christopher Wren's London churches - St Bride's, Fleet St. It's often known as the Wedding Cake church because the spire is said to be the inspiration for the tiered wedding cakes that have graced so many wedding receptions over the years. Samuel Pepys lived nearby as a child and he and his eight brothers and sisters were all baptized here. St Bride's was another victim of the bombing on December 29th 1940. Firebombs reduced it to a shell and only the spire and the outer walls remain from Wren's church. As ever you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

The interior was rebuilt after the war using Wren's original plans and the church is now light and pleasant and has a well known choir who were practising when I went in. I didn't go right into the church because of this.

Instead I went down into the crypt where there is a fascinating museum. The first church on this site was built in the 6th century and before that there had been a Roman building, you can see a section of Roman pavement and remains of all the churches that have stood here over the last 1500 years - archaeologists discovered all this during excavations done when St Bride's was being rebuilt in the 1960s. The crypt was, of course, originally a medieval charnel house and the bones of several thousand people are still there in a bricked up chamber.

On that rather gruesome note we'll move on to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, this famous old pub has been here since 1667 when it replaced the original inn which was burned down in the Great Fire. Unfortunately it is closed on Sundays so I wasn't able to get any photos of the interior which I gather is well worth seeing. Among those who frequented the Cheshire Cheese in their time are Samuel Pepys, Charles Dickens, Voltaire, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and US President  Theodore  Roosevelt. This view is of the side entrance which is on a narrow alley leading off Fleet St.

When you turn into the alley called Wine Office Court you will see this sign fixed on to the wall of the Cheshire Cheese. Dr Johnson's advice is very sound, exploring the little alleys and courts leads to all kinds of interesting discoveries.

Wine Office Court opens out into Gough Square where Dr Johnson lived. He was the author of the very first English Dictionary published in 1755. This is a memorial to his cat Hodge ' a very fine cat indeed'. Regrettably the best photo of Hodge is also graced by my shadow:) Dr Johnson's house was covered in scaffolding and closed for renovations so what with that and the Cheshire Cheese being closed I think another visit to Fleet St on a Saturday is indicated!

Another reason to return to Fleet St. This is the entrance to the Temple church which is open between 1pm and 4pm Sunday afternoons and it was much later than that by the time I passed by.   I would really love to go in here, it was built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century and I believe there are some wonderful 13th century effigies inside. It featured in the Da Vinci Code too. It's no use - I've just got to go London again!

"Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clement's"
The spire of St Clement Danes which stands on a little island in the middle of the Strand. The bells of this church ring out the tune of the old nursery rhyme. St Clement's was another victim of the Blitz and all except one of the bells had to be recast. The sole survivor was the Sanctus Bell which was cast in 1588 and it is still ringing out over London 400 years later.

I don't know how well the name Twinings is known overseas but in the UK it's been associated with high quality tea for over 300 years. Thomas Twining (1675-1741) founded Twinings by purchasing the original Toms Coffee House at the back of this site in 1706, where he introduced tea. In 1717 he opened the Golden Lyon here as a shop to sell tea and coffee and Twinings has been been here ever since.

Thomas Twining's grandson was responsible for the building of this doorway which incorporated the golden lion symbol. You can also see the Royal Warrant - Twinings are suppliers of tea and coffee to the Queen.
By this time it was 6pm and  I'd been walking since 9am with just a short break to have some lunch so I turned up Chancery Lane and made my way back to my hotel in Bloomsbury for a nice refreshing shower  and then a leisurely dinner.


JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

What a lovely trip - so many fabulous photos.

Dartford Warbler said...

What a pity that The Cheshire Cheese was closed. You can ( or could when I lived in London) go through to the old bar where the poets of the Rhymers Club used to meet, to share and criticize each other`s new work. A favourite haunt of WB Yeats during his London years.

Lovely photos of St Brides. The Wren churches are so elegant.

Anonymous said...

You packed a lot in didn't you... I want to visit St Brides now. How did you plan this trip?

WOL said...

Dr. Johnson used to by oysters for Hodge, I'm told. What with the dictionary and all, there's no doubt Hodge was a very well educated cat.

I am very familiar with Twinings tea here in Texas. I'm drinking some of their Darjeeling at the moment. Twining's brand Earl Grey tea is endorsed by the 6th Earl.

We always think of Brits drinking tea, but up until the early 18th century, coffee was the big deal.

Good job they still had Wren's original plans and were able to rebuild St. Bride's. I remember the nursery rhyme about St. Clement's bells. Wren was big on those "wedding cake" spires.

Hildred said...

Thank you for the lovely walk, for your descriptions and information - I really enjoyed it, especially the churches, as Dartford Warbler said, 'so elegant'.

We always drink Twinings Tea in our house, - I am not sure if it is because of our London ancestry - will have to see if others are as devoted to it as we are.

Bovey Belle said...

Twinings Earl Grey for us (anything else is but a poor imitation).

What a fascinating walk - so much history in London, and I know so little of it. Do you, perchance, have a copy of H V Morton's "London" - you would LOVE it.

Anonymous said...

Such beautiful pictures. I love the fact that you still have such a lot of old buildings and monuments. Where I live there aren't many old buildings. They were bombed in WW2 and not rebuilt.
In a town not so far from here( a town called Sluis) they do have old buildings, but not enough to my taste ; )

Gracie said...

I was in Temple Church last year with my daughter (it wasn't easy to find though...) and it made a real impression on me! Very unusual and a mysterious one....About Twinings, we were there last year and we came back this time (with my mother too) to buy lots of boxes of different tea, the brand is the one best sold in Italy too...

Rosie said...

Absolutely fascinating, Rowan! Thank you for taking the time to add so much information. I've always wanted to visit Dr Johnson's House in Gough Square maybe one day - I didn't know there was a memorial to Hodge there:)

Diane said...

What a great day out. My daughter is a big Davinci Code fam and visited Temple Church on her recent visit to London (and loved it.) I so need a day out in the capital. x

Comfrey Cottages said...

You certainly do need a visit when the Cheshire Cheese Pub and Temple Church are open! Good advice indeed to visit little alleys and other places off the beaten path:) I will always remember this post when I see a wedding cake in the future:) The crypt area is so interesting! My cat Wisteria, got very jealous of Hodge's monument! lol And our yes, we are very familiar with Twining's here in the US, Rowan. The BEST tea ever! Thank you for taking us on your journey:) xx

Mac n' Janet said...

We know Twinings Tea too, thanks for the walk through the church and to Samuel Pepys, love the cat statue. We've tried to get into Temple Church off and on for years, Mac has wanted to visit William Marshall. The closest we've come is seeing the inside in a movie.

Sheila said...

So much history to be enjoyed. My only trips to London were school ones, and I don't remember anything as interesting as you show us!

Granny Sue said...

Twining's Earl Grey for me :) But how do yu pronounce it? My sister says it like "twinnings" and I say it like "twining" string. I did not realize the history of the tea was so old.

This was a fascinating post, so much to see and think about. When that bell was cast, my land was still under virgin forest and no white person had yet visited it. Think of the difference--by that time London was quite civilized.

Anonymous said...

Twinings is a part of my morning every day here in NC, USA. Earl Grey, with a splash of cream, in a thermos, gets me through my morning classes!

WOL said...

If "Twinings" follows the rule (double the consonant and shorten the vowel, like diner vs dinner), having only one "n" would make it "twine -nings" -- which is why I pronounce it that way. But in a country where "Gloucestershire" is pronounced "Glawstershire" and "Berkley" is pronounced "Barkley," who knows . . .

Rowan said...

WOL is quite right,the first 'i' in Twinings is pronounced the same as in diner. It's amused me to read of all the Twinings tea drinkers from various parts of the world as I, British though I am, actually never drink tea at all!
BB, I do indeed have a copy of H.V. Morton's 'London' and I must dig it out and read it again.

Elizabeth Rhiannon said...

I loved your wonderful post! If I can't be there, I can live it through your great pictures and descriptions. I love Hodge, too :) And Twinings! It was Twinings 'English Breakfast' that started it all with me. I was the oddest adolescent; the only kid that loved tea and started a collection :) Thanks for sharing, so good to see you again!

Jean said...

A very interesting post, I have enjoyed reading it and looking at the lovely photos, thank you Rowan

Carolyn said...

You did do a lot of walking but you saw a lot of beautiful architecture!There is so much to see in England.

Thank you for your kind words-I am thrilled you thought our garden could be one of your lovely English ones!

Take care,

Mary said...

I really enjoyed these posts and photos of the special places round London. So many are never seen by tourists as they are off the beaten track a bit. When younger, and with more time to spend in the city as my family lived there (Highgate), I saw some of these and delighted in the amazing history associated with the tiny buildings and beautiful churches tucked in the nooks and crannies. Now it's usually a quick stop to hit Oxford St. - M&S, Selfridges, and Tesco before Heathrow! London is such an awesome city - perhaps some day I'll get back with your list of places I'd love to see.

Thanks for sharing your visit Rowan.

Hugs - Mary

Dog Trot Farm said...

Rowan, I so enjoy your wonderful historical posts, I learn so much from them. Some day I would love to travel across the pond and see these wonderful sights first hand. Thank you for sharing.

thesnailgarden said...

I love your London posts Rowan - they are better than a guide book. Thank you for sharing your trip with us. Best wishes, Pj x

laoi gaul~williams said...

lovely photos~i love the crypt, i would love to see the Roman ruins so much.

MorningAJ said...

While you were in Chancery Lane did you happen to visit the Silver Vaults?
It's quite the strangest place to buy silver but it's always an adventure!

Anonymous said...

You certainly did alot of walking but look at all the history you captured, what beautiful magestic buildings that still stand today.
All the best Rowan,
Happy March 1st,

Wanda..... said...

Rowan, you always have such interesting tours to show us. Love the history of it all. Twinings Brand is one of my favorites. I love the beautiful tins as well!

Rowan said...

Lizzie - I didn't plan the trip apart from the visits to St Olaves and St Botolphs churches. I simply bought a street map of London and followed my nose:)
MorningAJ - I did go past the Silver Vaults but being Sunday they were closed or I would have gone in - next time!
Gracie - having read what you say about Temple Church I'm determined to go back and see it now - especially since I've found that 4xGt Aunt Matilda had a brother who was baptized there!