So far, a decent week.
Let Malcolm take us through it.
Monday involved a jaunt down to the British Library and the excellent exhibition on Henry VIII: Man and Monarch. It took Malcolm and the Lady in his Life nearly three hours to troll through the exhibits. These embrace the spectacular –
The Act of Supremacy of 1534, a single paragraph of which was as significant to the development of England as that minor squabble of 1215 between King Jean and his barons;
and the amusing –
Henry VIII proof-reading the Bible, and being waspishly reminded by his Archbishop that not even the King of England could re-define the Ten Commandments.
The catalogue, by Susan Doran, must be one of the best values, particularly at the Times Culture+ discount of a few pence under £16. Yes: for that’s the hard-back, too.
So to lunch at the Irish Club. After which — since the Club is singularly delinquent in offering any cask ales, and we have time and space — go exploring?
And, a discovery.
St George’s, Southwark
There has been a Roman Catholic chapel in Southwark since 1793. After the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, the local priest, Fr Thomas Doyle, set about the construction of a church suitable for his burgeoning flock. August Pugin came up with a grandiose project, of which a dumbed-down, scrubbed-up version was completed in time to become the Cathedral Church of the Southwark Archdiocese, when Pius XI restored the English hierarchy in 1850.
In 1941 the Luftwaffe included St George’s in its town-planning programme for London. So the present structure dates form the 1950s.
A bit of a barn outside, but within, the architect, Romilly Bernard Craze, deserves considerable credit. What makes it remarkable, to Malcolm, is that it is such an English interior. It may not be the most spectacular RC building in London (that’s the 100-octane, sixteen-cylinder Byzantine frolic in Victoria), but it is well worth the visit. Put it this way: of the two, one is for work, the other for ornament — Malcolm knows which he prefers.
After which, a passing visit to the other George of Southwark, the famed galleried pub off Borough High Street. A good pint of Adnams Broadside (but there’s even better to be had at the Bridge House downstream): beyond which, Malcolm’s advice is take your holiday snaps, and don’t bother.
Wednesday, to Old Harlow
A day off, and today a trip out to Essex.
Harlow itself is a pretty-depressing post-war development. OK, OK: it’s the birthplace of Mrs Beckham, “Posh Spice”. Enough, already?
Go a bit out-of-town (numerous roundabouts) and find Old Harlow. Which is what Malcolm and the Lady in his Life did today, to share conversation with a few old friends and colleagues.
The party assembled at the Queen’s Head in Churchgate Street (over six-footers should duck). If the George in Southwark is guaranteed to disappoint, this one is equally as up-lifting and worthwhile. All kudos to Greshon, on the beerintheevening site, who has it spot on:
Perfect, perfect olde worlde pub: ancient outside and in, old beams, fireplaces, etc, etc. Beautiful churchside location too in a gorgeous street. Who would have thought Harlow could be so idyllic?
All that’s missing in that comment is the good choice of beers (yes, Adnam’s Broadside!), wines and a daunting list of food-choices.
And next door …
… is the parish church. From the outside, St Mary’s and St Hugh’s is an interesting building. The exterior is flint-stone masonry, with a broached, rather heavy, Essex spire at the crossing. So far, so good.
Inside it is a dreary Victorian “restoration”. In fact, the church has been pretty effectively mucked about over the centuries. There was a catastrophic fire in 1708; and then it suffered a thorough going-over in 1872-3. However …
The odd spectacular detail winks through.
- There is a surfeit of Jacobean memorials on the walls.
Most of the glazing is Victorian “every picture tells a story” stuff, but there are two quite-remarkable exceptions.
- Hidden away in the north aisle (where one might expect to find the Lady Chapel, but which now amounts to a robing room) is a small piece of medieval glass, a Virgin-and-Child. It is delightful (and vaguely dated to the 14th-century), set in cut-down fragments of some glazing which must also pre-date that fire.
- One further curiosity: in the north transept, behind the modern pitch-pine screen-panels, are two painted glass roundels, depicting the executed Charles I and Queen Anne (see right)
Tomorrow is only Thursday.
So, the Lady in his Life goes off to belt golf-balls, while Malcolm ventures forth in search of light-emitting diodes.
But that’s a different story.