We have finally found a place to live. After many hours and miles walking the cold, dark streets of London, Kathryn and I have found a place at Acton, West London. Click here for a map view of our street, Spencer St. It is a one bedroom flat on the lower-ground floor of a Victorian conversion. We have the whole floor as well as a front and back garden with space to park a BBQ and our own front door. Compared to other places we had seen this was by far the biggest. Pictures will follow when I take them and finish the roll. It is in a little group of streets called Poets Corner because of such street names as Chaucer Rd and Shakespeare Rd. Acton is a nice quiet area near the Ealing Film Studios where I think they used to film comedies. If you start walking west from Oxford St you should get to Acton in about an hour. We move in next weekend (4th).
I had a day off yesterday, so I went to see some churches that had been on my list for a while. They are three of the finest churches in London but most tourists miss them.
First I went to Southwark Cathedral which I have passed many times on the train. The grey church is tucked away between warehouses and cranes near London Bridge and is easily missed. When HV Morton visited the cathedral in 1951 the verger told him: “If this cathedral stood within ten miles of a popular watering-place, it would be one of the most famous sights in England. Although millions of people pass it every week, they are alway in a hurry, either rushing to work or else rushing home after work.” Like so many other cathedrals it was covered in scaffolding outside, but it was very pleasant within. I thought it was a bit steep asking for a £2.50 donation and then charging you £1.50 for a photo license, but that’s London. Better value than St Pauls.
There is a memorial to Shakespeare who lived in the parish for a while and performed at the Globe Theatre nearby.
I have decided to start collecting epitaphs. As HV Morton says, “They always seemed much more worth collecting than many things.” There are many interesting ones in Southwark but I made a note of this one:
Wenceslas Hollar (1607 – 1677)
Exile from Bohemia – Artist in England
The works of nature and of men
By thee preserved, take life again.
And ev’n thy Prague serenely shines,
Secure from ravage in thy lines.
In just return this marble frame
Would add some ages to thy name:
Too frail, alas! ‘Tis forced to own
Thy shadows will outlast the stone.
George Vertue 1745
From the cathedral I took a tube to Bank to see the church of St Stephen Walbrook. This is the church Wren practised his dome building on before St Pauls and is in the street of the same name (which used to be a little stream leading to the Thames), next to the Lord Mayor’s nice (Mansion) House. I arrived half an hour late to hear the sung Eucharist, which is at the unususal time of 12:45 Thursdays. I looked in through the windowed doors and the choir sounded very good. While waiting for the service to finish I bought a baguette from Pret on Cannon Street and ate it in a little patch of trees and a fountain off College Street. It was a lovely day; the sky was clear and the weather was very mild.
St Stephen Walbrook is a lovely church. It is very small, just one square room really, but this room is topped by a lovely dome and in the centre, surrounded by sixteen pillars, is a huge boulder for an altarstone.
I then walked down Queen Victoria Street to Mansion House Station passing the remains of the Roman Temple of Mithras. Not much to look at but it is very old. It is also one of the few places of historical interest that is 100% free.
I emerged from Temple tube and, after buying a lemon for Kathryn who isn’t feeling the best, walked up Fleet Street to Temple Bar for one of the most amazing experiences of my life. You wouldn’t know it, but behind the buildings on Fleet Street lies another world. I ducked down a little alley past a guy selling newspapers and suddenly it was if I had stepped through a transporter and landed in Oxford. The Temple Church stood in front of me surrounded by the peaceful and scholarly looking buildings of Inner Temple, one of the Inns of Court (where the barristers hang out). The church was built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century before they got too rich and the King shut them down. It is wonderful. It is the only round church left in London. Inside are some ancient effigies of knights and on the curved wall of the nave are some wonderfully grotesque stone faces.
It is right up there with the chapel in Edinburgh Castle for my favourite little churches.