The end at last! This is, like, three months after it happened, but by george, I’ve done it.
I forget when we started that day — I think we did try to leave the house a bit earlier, but then I forgot my camera, which almost defeats the purpose of being in London (to my disordered mind, anyway), so we had to go back and then ride the tube quite a ways until we got to a certain apartment building in north London:
23 Meteor St, Tufnell Park, London! If you know what this is, then you know; and if you don’t… then it doesn’t matter. But I was super excited!
At this point, Katherine got a call from her work, and though she’d requested a day off, she had to go in and take care of something, so sadly we parted ways for the morning until the afternoon. But it was fun to wander by myself, although (as you will see) I didn’t end up looking at too much.
So that was the first thing I did on day three, and the second was:
Platform 9 3/4! Having gotten the geekiness out of my system (as if it ever leaves…), I then went in search of more notable medieval churches. In fact, medieval churches (I mean churches that still have significant parts of the actual fabric of the building that date to medieval times) are hard to come by in London. The Great Fire destroyed a lot, the Victorian enthusiasm for revival styles often obscured what was left, and you can always add in bomb damage from WWII. And although London is huge (I mean huge), it was drastically smaller in the middle ages, so most of its hundreds of churches were built to accommodate populations that didn’t exist until recent centuries.
Nevertheless, I did some quick research and had a list of places I wanted to try and find. The first one I found was St Ethelreada’s.
Squeezed in between some imposing modern buildings, St Ethelreda’s is a 13th century church that is the oldest church building used by Catholics in London (and for a while, in all of England, but now it’s been displaced). Or you could say it is the oldest presently Catholic church in London. Dedicated to the 7th century saint Ethelreda/Aethelthryth, the church was the chapel attached to the bishop of Ely’s London residence.
This is what the bishop’s residence looked like once upon a time.
From where I was standing, here at the bottom of the stairs, on my right was:
The entrance to the crypt, which might go back to the 6th century.
My pictures weren’t great, so I’ll supplement with some pictures I took out of the guidebook:
In 1623, after the floor collapsed during an evening service at the French ambassador’s residence at Blackfriars, the Bishop of London refused burial to the Catholic recusants apparently present, so the bodies of 18 of them were secretly transported here and buried under the stones of the crypt.
Inside the church. The Victorian stained glass was destroyed by bombing during WWII, so these windows are from the 50s.
But as modern stained glass goes, these have basically traditional designs and I like them.
St Etheldreda herself.
It was pretty dark and I couldn’t take very nice pictures of the interior.
But here it is from the guide book.
Going back out the door…
Okay! Next I walked down the street a bit, because I saw on the map that I wasn’t far from some streets with interesting names…
One of the delightful things about European cities is that their street names make sense, or at least made sense and had some signification at some point in the past. It really helps with exploring, because sometimes (of course not always) you can follow a street and find the thing it is called after. Our arbitrary street-names are more confusing. (And Bellingham’s lettered streets are confusing for yet additional reasons.)
At the time I didn’t actually know when there were last Carthusians in London, if there were Carthusians in London again, where they had been, if anything was left, or anything else, but I wanted to find out. (I have also followed monastic-named streets in Munich, the results of which I will share at a different time!)
Eventually I found myself sneaking past the barrier and onto the grounds of one of the campuses of Queen Mary, University of London, on Charterhouse Square.
Some of the Tudor-era buildings are left.
In fact, the Carthusians were only here for less than two hundred years. They had been in England since the 12th century (and in Europe since the 11th), but the London house wasn’t founded until the late 14th century. In the late 1340s, during the Black Death, the site was rented from St Bartholomew’s Hospital (remember them!) as a graveyard and plague pit for victims. A chapel and hermitage were built, which were granted to the Carthusians in 1371. Sir Thomas More came here for spiritual retreats, and later saw the monks on their way to death from his window in the Tower. You can read more about the house and its post-Dissolution history on Wikipedia, as always. It was turned into a Tudor mansion, the church demolished, but in the 17th century the buildings were put back into charitable use as a boys’ school and a home for senior men.
Today the school (become very prestigious) has moved locations, but the senior citizens’ home is still running, and some of the buildings are used by the school of medicine and dentistry that descends from St Bartholomew’s Hospital (keep remembering them — there will be a quiz).
Do you remember St Bartholomew?? Because this is it.
“The church owes its origins to Rahere, a favored courtier of King Henry I, who after the death of King Henry’s wife Queen Matilda and then heir, Prince William, along with some other family members, renounced his way of life and decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome.
“In Rome, he sickened, and fearful for his life, vowed to found a hospital for the poor on his return to London. Subsequently recovering, he was about to head home when a vision of St Bartholomew appeared to him and told him that he had helped him to recover and now desired him to found a church in Smithfield.
“On his return to London, Rahere did just that – founding the priory with its church and a hospital for the poor. He saw both completed before he died 1145. Amazingly, his tomb still lies within the church, on the left hand side of the altar.”
It has a real Norman interior, the most intact in London, although everything up to the crossing was pulled down and what was left was restored in the 19th century.
The priory was half-demolished after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but the church and the hospital remained.
In fact, it’s such a snazzy cool church that they charge you a fee to visit the nave and choir… at this point I had almost no money left in my pockets and what I had, I wanted to spend on a snack for lunch, so I pulled the ol’ “just here to pray” method that has served me so well so far (not). They smilingly directed me to the side chapel…
… where I could just manage to peek out sneakily through the bars of the gate and get a blurry pictures of the nave and Norman choir.
So there is that. Now here’s more from the side chapel.
The northern aisle and ambulatory.
Lovely roof! Notice how my architectural commentary has become almost nonexistent.
A cafe in what remains of part of the priory cloister.
In the original church, we were still in the nave. The west front is on the other side of this half-timbered Tudor fragment. I was dumb and didn’t take a picture of it from that side. But here.
All in all, a very cool church. If I ever go back to London I will either pony up the 4 pounds or whatever it was or try and go to a service.
I didn’t have much time left, and, a little nervous about running out of money on my Oyster card (for the tube), I had to choose between visiting to All Hallows-by-the-Tower, as old and significant a church as any in London, or St Cyprian, a neo-Gothic church in the Perpendicular style — which for reasons I can’t remember now, seemed like the better decision. I did want to see at least one really legit English Gothic Revival church while I was there. And it meant I would get to double-up on London sights, because to get there I had to go to:
I passed by the Sherlock Holmes Museum…
He was right by the tube station.
To my disappointment, St Cyprian wasn’t even open. Sooo I just turned around and got back on the tube and rode to meet Katherine at her apartment and pack up!
I think this is Waterloo station — what I remember about that trip home is stopping at Waterloo (where I had to change from the tube to a regional train which would get to Wimbledon faster) and asking for directions from one of the guys at the gates. In English! And without feeling guilty for speaking English! It was so satisfying.
I tried to get better pictures of the rooftops in London, how they just go on forever and all have those little chimneys on top, like it’s Mary Poppins or something. But this was what I could get.
SO, we are finished, except for the intricacies of getting to and through the airport and onto the plane and landing again in Munich — all the things that seem so engrossing while you’re doing them, but so boring to tell afterward. But it was with a little sigh of relief that I landed in Munich and found my train home, all the little things about a city that are familiar to me now, even if in German. London is amazing but pretty overwhelming. It’s really nice to be able to travel like I have, but still have an established home base — I don’t think I would last very long, or be very happy, on a two or three week travel sprint. But maybe someday!
I fly home on August 7th, by the way, which leaves me with only a little over a month left in Germany. I have several daytrips to post, and a few more planned, before I get back home… hopefully they’ll be worth the read!
Oh and one last huge thank you to Katherine, for being such a great host and welcoming me so warmly to her city and apartment, making travel so much easier by lending me her extra Oyster card, not letting me get hit by buses when I looked the wrong way, and even cooking me food… thank you, Kat! Maybe someday you can come and stay with me in BELLINGHAM. You will love it. We have trees and things. It’s probably pretty much as awesome as London, right??