Monday 13 October 2014

#IChallengeMS - I did it!

So - as Churchill said "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat". Well it wasn't quite that bad; no blood (although I collected a few bruises); a lot of toil (I worked it out on Google maps - I walked over 10 miles!); tears - nearly on a few occasions where fatigue nearly won (the steps down to St Benet's and St Andrew's Holborn; a circular trek through building works searching for St Giles whose tower I could see; the endless trek down Chancery Lane) and a couple of heavy rain showers and, yes, quite a lot of sweat - even when it rained it was quite humid and other days it was unreasonably sunny.

I did it though. 41 Anglican Churches in the square mile. Beautiful, historical, each with it's own unique charms and story. I reached my fundraising target (it is still September, you can still donate though).

So here's a brief round up of my Challenge. [Link on the names of churches will take you to their website, links on the number of a church will take you to my Flickr album for that church]. The church pages and photographs will give greater insight into the church, the whole collection of albums for all the churches is here.

Day 1 - Monday 8th September 2014
Day OneI hadn't been able to start on the Friday as I had the monthly Greenwich MS Society Coffee Morning. I spent the weekend building  up the stamina I suspected I would need. So I set off in high spirits on Monday morning.

On my arrival at Cannon Street I made my way downhill to St Michael Paternoster Royal (Church 1), one of two St Michael's. This was a sensible start as I knew where to find the church. First recorded in the 13th Century; the parish Church of Dick Whittington (four times Lord Mayor); it was restored by him in the 15th Century before being destroyed by the Great Fire in the 17th Century and restored (again) by Christopher Wren. The church was nearly destroyed a third time in World War II and was restored as the Mission to Seafarers.

From St Michael I made my way back up the hill towards bank stopping at St Stephen Walbrook (Church 2); currently tucked away between the building site where Bucklersbury House once stood and Mansion House. St Stephen's name comes from the Walbrook river (long gone) and traces its history back to the 11th Century. Like St Michael it was restored by Wren after the Great Fire and restored again after bomb damage in WW2. These days the internal dome comes as a surprise as little of the exterior of the church is visible.

Turning the corner into King William Street took me to St Mary Woolnoth (Church 3). This is the first of five St Mary's. This is the only church to have an undergound station beneath it (Bank Station). Also mentioned in TS Eliot's 'The Wasteland':-
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street
To where St Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the stroke of nine.
A short walk along Lombard Street to St Edmund King and Martyr (Church 4). Named for the King of East Anglia martyred by the Danes in AD870. Rebuilt after the Great Fire and further repaired after both World Wars it is now used as a Centre for Spirituality. There is an amazing cloth labyrinth in the centre of the nave floor (and a brick version in Fen Court).

After my detour to Fen Court to see the Labyrinth it was off along Fenchurch Street to St Margaret Pattens (Church 5). Dedicated to the Maid of Antioch (a Christian martyr) the 'pattens' is thought to refer to the wooden soles on raised iron hoops to keep women's shoes out of the mud and water made nearby. The church was rebuilt after the Great Fire and is the only spire by Wren which remains. The church also underwent restoration after WWII.

A short cut through (admiring some of my favourite tall buildings) bought me to St Andrew Undershaft (Church 6); the first of three St Andrew's. I did not get to go inside this church as it used as a community type centre. Dating from the sixteenth century this church survived both the Great Fire and WWII relatively unscathed although did lose a stained glass window due to a nearby IRA bomb blast. The curious name comes from an historic maypole which when erected was higher than the church tower!

Not far from St Andrew is St Helens Bishopsgate (Church 7); the only time I really took advantage of proximity during the day! Dating to the 13th Century this is actually two churches, a nun's church from a Benedictine monastery and a parish church. Like nearby St Andrew's this church made it to the 21st Century reasonably unscathed by fire and bombs.

Seven churches had done for me for the day, and I ended up taking a taxi back to London Bridge Station (at my own expense, of course!)

Day 2 - 15th September 2014
TravelThe day looked like another sunny day (indeed it turned out to be a scorcher). I decided a little more methodology and order was called for (not to miss churches just round the corner)!

First stop of a few close together was St Mary Abchurch (Church 8). The derivation of the name is uncertain; it could be a corruption of a benefactor 'Abba' or derive from a location 'upchurch' being up the hill from the river. St Mary's has a dome (one of several Waen churches that do so) although the painting of the dome is unique. The reredos is one of only two authenticated pieces of work by Grinling Gibbons in our church collection; and was superbly repaired after being destroyed by a bomb in WWII.

A short walk to St Clement Eastcheap (Church 9). "Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clement's". In this crowded section of the City it is easy to miss St Clement. Named for the second bishop of Rome martyred for his faith this was one of the first churches burned down by Great Fire; restored of course, by Wren. Now used as headquarters for the human rights organisation the Amos Trust I owe thanks to the kind gentleman who unlocked the door to let me look round inside even though it was outwith their visitor hours.

Next up two happily close together first St Peter upon Cornhill (Church 10). This was another church to which I did not gain access as it was closed with a telephone number on the door to arrange for visits. A church on this site is said to date back to AD179 although the current building was re-built after the Great Fire.

Passing through a typical City passageway onto Cornhill itself bought me to St Michael Cornhill (Church 11); the second St Michael. Rebuilt after the Great Fire this church was extensively re-modeled by the Victorians. The church is very distinctive for its rather gothic tower.

A bit of a trek to another nice cluster; starting with St Lawrence Jewry (Church 12). In my youth I spent much time in the City as my mother worked there, and our journey to and from our office often took us past St Lawrence and St Vedast. I cannot begin to imagine how often I passed St Lawrence without ever going inside! St Lawrence was another Christian martyr and the 'Jewry' reflects that the location of the church was close to the Jewish quarter of the City in medieval times. Another twice restored church having been rebuilt after the Great Fire and then again after extensive bomb damage in WWII.

Just along Gresham Street is St Anne and St Agnes (Church 13). Restored after the Great Fire this is the only City church dedicated to two saints. I didn't gain access to this church, as having served as a Lutheran church since 1966 it is now repurposed as a concert venue.

Round the corner (nearly at the Museum of London) to the first of three St Botolph's. This is St Botolph without Aldersgate (Church 14). St Botolph is the patron saint of travelers and churches dedicated to him can be found at the sites of several of the gates into the City; providing shelter and sanctuary for travelers arriving after the gates had closed for the night. I didn't get to go inside this church either as the builders were in residence!

I missed a trick here by not popping over the road to St Giles (see day 4) and did some back tracking to Gresham Street and Foster Lane (past Goldsmith's Hall) to St Vedast alias Foster (Church 15). I timed this just to the wrong time of day as it was by now lunchtime, and there was a service in progress. St Vedast is named for a 6th Century Dutch saint, Foster somehow being a corruption of this. Accessed from Foster Lane is Fountain Court, one of the peaceful gardens that accompany some of the City churches.

A the top of Foster Lane instead of turning right to St Paul's (see also day 4) I turned left down Cheapside to St Mary le Bow (Church 16). "I do not know, says the Great Bell of Bow". It is considered that true Cockneys are born within the sound of the bow bells. The "le-bow" in the name may refer to the Norman arches, at the time something of a novelty (the church probably replacing a Saxon church on the same site). Rebuilt after the Great Fire the church was almost completely destroyed in WWII and not completely restored again until the 1960s.

Taking a trip down some charming little lanes heading back towards the river took me to St Mary Aldermary (Church 17). The name of the church may refer to the seniority of the church, being older than others with the same dedication. Rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire it suffered the fate of Victorian 'restoration' (more a denuding!) it was further restored at the turn of the 21st Century. This church is home to Moot sometimes referred to as 'new Monasticism' and also home to The Host cafe whose Lemon and Poppyseed cake I highly recommend.

Here it all got a bit scatter-gun. I crossed the road by Monument tube to go down the hill to St James Garlichythe (Church 18). Another church that wasn't open the day I visited, but I have been inside as I once (in my chorister days) sang at a wedding there. Garlickhythe refers to a nearby wharf where garlic was landed. Outside the church is a rather fine statue of a bargemaster with a swan!

Next I had to retrace my steps back up the hill and walk along; see it can't find the entrance; to St Nicholas Cole Abbey (Church 19). Cole Abbey is likely a distortion of 'cold harbour' a shelter for travelers. Confusing to find the way in because the original entrance in Distaff Lane is no longer the entrance so I did a bit of a tour round the building. Rebuilt after the Great Fire and WW2 this church now houses The Wren cafe; deservedly award winning.

A trek along Queen Victoria Street (and a trip to the far side found my last stop of the day St Benet (Church 20). St Benet Paul's Wharf is also known as St Benet Welsh Church as it was when under threat of demolition given over to the Welsh Episcopalian Church. Easy to see, but difficult to access; down a long flight of steps in the middle of an underpass system of nearby Queen Victoria Street. Having managed to get down I was not a little annoyed to find the church closed and had to make my way back up again.

Words may have been had between me and St Benet! On that note I decided enough was enough for one day and found a bus to take me back to Canon Street!

Day 3 - 19th September 2014
2014-09-19 14.56.32Another bright start to the day; however I was warned that there might be rain later in the day. Nothing could have prepared me for the transition from bright sunshine to a torrential downpour; in a period of minutes.

I started by heading to Lower Thames Street and St Magnus Martyr (Church 21). This church once stood at the end of the old London Bridge before rebuilding of the bridge moved it to the West. The church boasts a fine model of the medieval bridge. Mentioned (again) by TS Eliot in 'The Wasteland'
Where the walls of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold
St Magnus holds the prize for the highest church visited - boasting shrines to various saints at which to pray as well as the stations of the cross. Rebuilt after the Great Fire the church escaped much bomb damage.

Crossing back over Lower Thames Street to go up St Mary at Hill to St Mary at Hill (Church 22). Turns out the Churchyard entrance here is the back entrance and the main entrance is actually on Lovat Lane (go figure!). Rebuilt after the Great Fire the church managed to escape the bomb damage that blighted so many others only to be severely damaged by fire in 1988 - the slightly spartan interior is because much remaining fittings and furnishings remain in storage.

Time to go back down the hill and take a walk to the City boundary to All Hallows by the Tower (Church 23). All Hallows dates back to 675AD and survived the Great Fire thanks to the efforts of
Admiral Penn (father of William Penn founder of Pennsylvania who was baptised at the church), John Quincy Adams (6th President of the US) married at the church; and thanks to the proximity of the church to the Tower of London it dealt with many of the beheaded bodies, Badly damaged in WWII it was restored.

Leaving the City (briefly to cross the road) I then headed into a tangle of Streets to find St Olave Hart Street (Church 24). The hint is in the name, and the Seething Lane entrance through the churchyard (a recurring theme) is not the main entrance. Dedicated to Olave King of Norway who assisted Ethelred the Unready by pulling down London Bridge to fend of the Danes "London Bridge is falling down, falling down".

St Botolph Aldgate (Church 25). Located just outside the Aldgate near to where Chaucer had lodgings (hence the wooden reconstruction of the gate). Escaping the Great Fire it was rebuilt in the late 18th Century. Unlike most churches the orientation of this is North/South rather than East/West. Daniel Defoe was married in this church, and wrote accounts of the plague pits in its churchyard.

Another bus ride to get to St Katharine Cree (Church 26). Cree is a corruption of Christ, referring to the grounds of the priory where the church was originally built. Rebuilt forty years before the Great Fire it escaped damage both in the fire or the war. The church is famous for its Lion Sermon given every year in memory of that by the then Lord Mayor Sir John Gayer in thanks for being saved from a lion in a journey through Syria (this was in the 17th Century).

Another bus ride (passing several old friends on the way) took me to St Sepulchre Newgate (Church 27). "When will you pay me, say the bells of Old Bailey". St Sepulchre also houses the handbell rung by the Sexton before executions at Newgate Gaol (formerly on the site now occupied by the Od Bailey). Sometime during this visit it began to get cloudy,

A further bus trip took me to nearly the outer reaches of the City again and St Andrew Holborn (Church 28). Steps, down steps to the church, up steps into the church. Although the church survived the Great Fire it was in a state of disrepair and therefore restored by Wren; gutted by bombs in WWII it was restored a second time. Back down the steps to the churchyard, and up the steps to Holborn. Exhaustion is setting in.

During my time in the church the heavens (appropriately) opened. Torrential rain. I sheltered briefly under a bus stop on the wrong side of the road before concluding that I couldn't get any wetter and crossing the road to take a bus back to the station.

Day 4 - 22nd September 2014
Pit-stopThe weather continued on my side (if you like that sort of thing) with warm, bright sunny weather. The ticking clock of September combined with quite a list of churches still to visit meant that once again I was off and starting earlier than usual.

A few churches behind (again) and on short rest (again) I did not hold out much hope for significant progress. I was meeting a very knowledgeable friend (a rector at St Martin Ludgate) to get some facts and information on the churches.

On my way to my meeting I managed to sneak in St Margaret Lothbury (Church 29). Rebuilt by Wren this church incorporates the parishes of seven other churches (presumably not rebuilt). Escaping the war the interior is quite superlative, the church itself is easy to miss hidden away behind the Bank of England.

Next up fiasco that was St Giles Cripplegate (Church 30). You can see the spire but when you don't know where to look and crossings are shut because of building works - well... I took a bus, walked back past CityPoint to the bus stop where I started (almost) before finding my way into the Barbican complex and the church. St Giles (patron Saint of lepers) and Cripplegate probably tells you all you need to know about the origin story of this church. A very literary church - it might not pop-up in Eliot's "Wasteland" but Milton is buried here, Shakespeare is said to have attended his nephew's christening here, Defoe was born in nearby Fore Street and Bunyan preached here.

Back to London Wall and the same bus stop to go along to All Hallows on the Wall (Church 31). No access to this fortress like church which is now home to a youth outreach programme.

Round the corner and a short walk up Bishopsgate to the last St Botolph; St Botolph without Bishopsgate (Church 32). Lovely gardens being used as a peaceful escape by office workers. Surviving the fire this church was remodeled by a rich benefactor. Another literary figure John Keats was baptised here.

Turning around again to the other side of Wormwood Street to St Ethelburga's (Church 33); hidden away behind a building site at time of writing. One of the smallest parish churches in the City (and believed to be the only church dedicated to St Ethelburga a Saxon abbess) this building survived the Great Fire and two wars only to be almost completely destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1993. Rebuilt using salvaged debris it is now open as a centre for Peace and Recocilliation.

Another bus trip to St Paul's Cathedral (Church 34), Wren's masterpiece. If you want to visit inside st Paul's it will cost you £12. I've been to services there, so I took the lift (thank goodness for that lift) back down to Ludgate Hill and continued onwards.

I stopped for lunch (chips and beer again) at the Gourmet Burger Company who do a fine line in rosemary chips.

Reinvigorated it was off down the hill and over the road to St Martin Ludgate (Church 35). Dedicated to a Roman soldier (later Bishop of Tours) its rebuilding after the Great Fire was its last great There is a spot (I didn't find) down Ludgate Hill where its spire perfectly bisects the dome of St Paul's.

Finding myself now on Ludgate Hill and all happily set up for a bus back to Cannon Street for the trip home.

Day 5 - 29th September 2014
Celebrating!Last day! The itinerary was set, I knew where I had to go, how to get there, I had a plan. The only flaw in my plan was it rained (again) and I forgot just how long Chancery Lane is. London may not have Manhattan's grid-system but its buses have the same insistence of travelling in one direction at a time!

A very reasonable six churches remaining - out in the west of the City. A quick trip downhill to the hard-to-find St Andrew Wardrobe (Church 36). It really shouldn't have been hard to find as many years ago I once did a job practically on its doorstep; which is why I know the origin of 'Wardrobe' (home of the King's wardrobe). Up some steps to get inside only to find the doors to the nave locked. I managed to make my way up to the gallery to get a look down into the church.

Back up the hill, past St Paul's (again) where happily a bus along Newgate Street (wave to St Katharine) takes me to St Bart's Hospital and the two churches I need to see here.

St Bartholomew the Less (Church 37) is located in the grounds of St Bart's Hospital. It really isn't very large. Built in the twelfth century attached to the hospital built at the same time by Rahere. Inigo Jones was baptised here and Wat Tyler (leader of the Peasant's Revolt) was taken to the adjacent hospital after being stabbed by Walworth the Mayor before being dragged back out and beheaded. The only parish of the church is the hospital itself.

St Bartholomew the Greater (Church 38) is located just round West Smithfield in Cloth Fair. Once part of a monastary the current church is all that remains after the dissolution. The remaining section was the chancel - which makes it easy to imagine the size of the monastery! There is a small entrance fee, but it is worth it, especially if you take advantage of the video documentary. And if you recognise it - well, it was the home of the fourth wedding in "Four Weddings and a Funeral".

A bit of a walk (wave to the Golden Boy at Pye Corner) back to get a bus along to Chancery Lane to walk down to Fleet Street to cross over to Temple (Church 39). Stunning in its architecture and again charging a small entrance fee (also worth it) - you may remember it from its appearance in Dan Brown's "The Davinci Code". Too far west to be touched by the fire it did suffer bomb damage in WWII noticeable by the restored stained glass!

Back up to Fleet Street again and cross over to St Dunstan in the West (Church 40). A choir practicing here slightly curtailed my visit. The bells of St Dunstan are the chimes in Dicken's "Christmas Carol". Again escaping the Great Fire it was restored in the nineteenth century and again after WWII. Other famous names associated with the church, William Tyndale was a preacher and John Donne a rect

A final bus strip along to the other end of Fleet Street, appropriately in the sight of Wren's Cathedral St Paul's for St Bride's (Church 41). St Bride is a corruption of St Bridget who's miracles are said to include changing well-water into beer! Rebuilt by Wren after the Great fire the church was only then to be gutted by incendiary bombs and refurbished again - and now currently raising funds to restore its iconic 'wedding cake' steeple.

In the end over the five days I visited all 41 churches on my list; I walked just over ten miles and took 13 buses and ten trains (to and from central London). I got rained on twice, had three pints of beer (to keep me going), two cups of coffee and an elderflower cordial.

Favourite church? Impossible to choose - all of them have their secrets, their treasures and their stories!

To see why we need to challenge MS have a look at this post.