Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Around St Pauls

Whilst on my visit to St Pauls for the Ordination I had an incidental opportunity to do some sight-seeing by dint of walking around a small portion of this historic part of London.

Emerging from the tube at St Paul's one is almost immediately confronted by the memorial rected in 1910 on the site of St Paul's Cross, the celebrated public pulpit of London from the later medieval period down to its destruction in the Civil War. There are articles about it here and here. This is a place of particular interest to me both because of an incident involving Robert Waterton the brother-in-law of Bishop Fleming in the reign of King Henry IV when Waterton's servant mocked a preacher at the Cross, an action for which he was made to do penance, and also the great sermon preached there by Bishop Gardiner following the reconciliation of England and the Papacy in 1554 - reading that helped me in my path to my own reconciliation four and a half centuries later.

Across the road were the ruins of a Wren church, still with its tower, which was obviously a victim of the Blitz. Only on checking afterwards did I find that these were the remains of Christ Church Newgate Street, built out of and over the site of the great church of the London Greyfriars. It is the burial place of, amongst others, those medieval members of the French royal house who married into the Plantagenets, Queen Margaret, the second wife of King Edward I and of Queen Isabella the King Edward II. There is a history with links here.

A reconstruction of the London Greyfriars on the eve of the reformation by H.W.Brewer


The remains of Christ Church Newgate Street

Image: Peter Herring's photostream on Flickr

Regular readers will not be surprised to read that I deplore the failure to properly rebuild these parts of our architectural heritage following the Blitz. On the continent the policy seems much more, and however long it may have taken or indeed still be taking, to rebuild and reinstate. Admittedly London has been responsible since 1860 for destroying quite a number of its historic churches without the assisatance of the Luftwaffe or the IRA, as can be seen in this article with its links.

Round in St Paul's Churchyard was a much better piece of conservation, the re-erected Temple Bar. Designed by Wren, removed from the Strand in the 1870s and rebuilt at Theobalds Park in Hertfordshire it was, after years of neglect, rebuilt and restored as the entrance to Paternoster Row facing the north side of St Paul's in November 2004. There are articles about it here and here.

Temple Bar in its new setting

Image: Wikipedia

The restored Bar looks very splendid and it is good to see it back in the City of London, though part of me at least would havewanted to see it restored to its original site , though that would have meant removing the Temple Bar monument by the Law Courts, never mind the effect on the traffic flow...

After the ordination in the cathedral we journeyed to celebrate with our friend at El Vino's branch in Blackfriars (his father is a journalist) and so once again one was surrounded by history. It was, of course, at Blackfriars that Wolsey held his legatine court to determine the validity of the marriage of Kng Henry VIII and Queen Katherine of Aragon in 1529. It is also of interest as an area to me as it appears that it was in this part of London that Master James of Spain, the cousin of King Edward II who gave the house called La Oriole, and hence its name, to my college, lived out his last years in the late 1320s and early 1330s. I could add a lot about James of Spain, but that can await another day.

Aftera most enjoyable reunion with friends from Oriel and elsewhere in Oxford I went off with a friend up towards Holborn, and into the vicinity of that wonderful building from the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries St Etheldreda's Ely Place - for which see here, here and here - and Charterhouse - the latter with connections to Bishop Fleming, who dedicated its church bell in the 1420s.

Passing the restored market at Smithfield, and evoking memories of the end of the 1381 Peasant's Revolt with the slaying of Wat Tyler by Sir William Walworth and the executions there in the sixteenth century, we had a very good Indian meal before walking back past the entrance to St Barts and found ourselves opposite the Old Bailey and looking in the dusk at the outside of
St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, which is still substantially medieval.

St Sepulchre without Newgate, Holborn Viaduct, London EC1

St Sepulchre without Newgate

Image: Geograph.org.uk

In the churchyard was an information board about the grim and grisly story of the Black Dog of Newgate, which can be read here and here.

Seeking the right tube station we returned to the west end of St Paul's, and walked along the south side, passing the tower, all that now remains of St Augustine Watling Street - another failure to rebuild other than incorporating the tower into the new building of St Paul's Choir School- before getting the tube westwards to Victoria and going our separate ways.

The tower of St Augustine's Watling Street

Image: Wikipedia

The actual distance travelled was slight but it took in a huge amount of historical interest. I definitely want to go back and explore more of the City of London, which I have to admit, is something I have hitherto failed to do.

1 comment:

AndrewWS said...

The thing I find wonderful about the City of London (and I used to work near Blackfriars many moons ago) is the constant presence of the Catholic past in the form of place and street names recalling the days when it was a place not only of business but of Catholic religious houses. The afore-mentioned Blackfriars, home of the Dominicans; Minories, once the home of the Friars Minor; Carmelite Street; Charterhouse Square, Ave Maria Lane, Austin Friars ... In the days before the horrors of the Reformation, before Irish, Italian and Polish immigration (for all three of which, and more, we can give thanks) Catholicism was the faith of devout Englishmen who ate beef and drank beer as we do (gin hadn't been invented at the time). Such men and women, in the abode of the blessed, must be rejoicing at the establishment of the Ordinariate.

By the way, the admirable Mrs Joanna Bogle is very good at guiding people around these things. Get yourself on one of her tours some time.