Candlelit vigil at Cross Bones Burial Ground

Posted by Ruth

Where: Redcross Way, SE1
Website: www.crossbones.org.uk

Many of us are keen to be remembered after we’ve gone – regardless of the life we’ve led, whether we were rich or poor, achieved great things or not. Sadly, most of us (in a few generations time) will not be, and there are many that were forgotten even in their own time. A candlelit vigil held at Cross Bones cemetery on the 23rd of every month seeks to redress this.

The gates of Crossbones taken by us during a daytime visit

The gates of Cross Bones taken by us during a daytime visit

Cross Bones is a disused burial ground, originally established as an unconsecrated graveyard for “single women” – the prostitutes licensed by the Church to work in Bankside, but not permitted a Christian burial.

Its exact date of origin is unknown, but the site was written about by John Stow in 1598.

Later it became a pauper’s cemetery, eventually housing approximately 15,000 burials, before closing in 1853 due to public health risk.

The land was subsequently sold, and was all but forgotten until numerous skeletons were unearthed during the extension of the Jubilee Line in the 1990s.

The gates of Cross Bones are now adorned with flowers, ribbons and trinkets, creating a beautiful and meaningful memorial. Led by local writer John Constable, the Friends of Cross Bones hold this monthly vigil, for people from all walks of life to gather and remember society’s outcast dead.

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Far from being a macabre affair, the vigil was inspiring and moving, with strangers huddled together listening to local performers sing and recite poetry (including two odes penned by a young girl).

John Constable recounted a poem gifted to him 16 years ago by the spirit of the ‘Winchester Goose’ (one of the prostitutes allegedly buried at Cross Bones). The vigil ended with a collective non-denominational prayer, and an offering of gin – likely to be one of the few comforts to the Cross Bones residents in their lifetime.

The site is now owned by Transport for London and the Friends of Cross Bones are currently campaigning for there to be a permanent memorial garden to mark the site. Given the level of development in London Bridge that is no easy task, but an imperative one. For Cross Bones is as important a place as any of London’s gilded Victorian cemeteries, and an important place to remember those on the periphery of society – both in the past and present.

You can find a link to the Friends of Cross Bones’s petition to protect the site here

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The First Couple of London Bridge

Posted by Colin

Couple1 Living in London Bridge, I’ve often seen this sculpture of a man standing on his plinth, surveying the scene of tourists and office workers hurrying around the shops and cafes of More London.

But often being one of those hurrying past I’ve never stopped to look at the plaque on the floor which reveals the name of this work: Couple. Now obviously that implies more than one person, but I’d only ever seen a man.

Intrigued, I actually took the time to have a bit of a look around and his partner had been there all along, I was just in too much of a rush to notice.

Unromantically she stands on the top of the public toilets. Despite her unglamourous footing, she has an amazing view of the Shard in front of her and, having been put there in 2003, she must have had a front row seat to watch London’s tallest building increasingly tower over her. If only she could turn round she’d also be able see Tower Bridge in the distance.

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This enchanting couple are carved out of wood and are the work of Stephan Balkenhol and the more I look at them the more I like them. If you’re ever in the area, stop by and say hello.

The Deptford Murals – Part 1

Posted by Colin

Over the past few weeks we have been digging around on Twitter in an attempt to unearth some more unheralded parts of the Capital. In doing so we came across London Mural Preservation Society (@L_MPS), whose aim it is to protect and celebrate these large works of art.

The handy map on their website showed us that four were to be found all within walking distance of each other in Deptford, South East London. Wanting to go Christmas shopping in Greenwich Market anyway, we took the opportunity for a quick tour. I’ll mention two of them here and Ruth will wrap things up in a later post.

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We first came across one of the newest additions to London’s mural scene – the Deptford Marbles at 494 New Cross Road.

At 9 metres x 4 metres, it covers an entire wall at the end of a small row of shops.

What is particularly clever about the piece is that it incorporates three large beams that were already attached to wall, seamlessly making them look a deliberate addition to the work. Painted in 2007 by Patricio Forrester, the mural envelops passers by making them seem part of the scene.

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A short walk along the always vibrant Deptford High Street, with its market stalls, fishmongers and butchers, brought us to another Forrester artwork – His and Hers on Giffin Square.

A surreal effort, he has transformed two chimneys into a couple with a necklace and tie hanging from a pair of chimneys. With a shocking pink background it is an unmistakable part of the bustling retail precinct.

According to the LMPS website, the necklace and tie took just one day to paint – at cost of £150 – thanks to donations from local businesses.

Ruth will pick up the story soon, but we’ll definitely be searching out a few more of these pieces of street art from the LMPS’s wonderful map.

Read Part Two

St Ethelburga’s Church

Posted by Ruth

Where: Bishopsgate, EC2
Website: http://stethelburgas.org
Twitter: @StEthelburgas

A calming atmosphere and sense of tranquility is not something one expects to find in the City of London. More typical is the rush of the business ecosystem, keeping the area pumping with suits and wealth. However, if you search them out there are hidden gems dotted about the Square Mile, offering a different experience in this infamous area.

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St Ethelburga’s is one such place. With the Gherkin towering in the near-distance, the City of London’s smallest church stands proudly within this concrete landscape. Built in approximately 1250, this little church has experienced its fair share of difficulty. Having just survived the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, this plucky church was hit again in the 1993 IRA Bishopgate bombing, suffering significant damage.

The church was subsequently rebuilt, and has reinvented itself as a Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, aiming to unite people of different faiths, and build relationships across conflict lines and cultural divides. It houses an interfaith tent – a place to pray and reflect on the commonality of our humanity – something which seems particularly appropriate in this spot.

The Shard, The Moon and Jupiter

Posted by Colin

Regular readers of the blog will know that there are scarcely two things in the world I love more than the night sky and the London skyline. So it is no surprise that I couldn’t resist taking this photo last Thursday evening, combining those two things in equal measure.

The picture shows London’s tallest building, The Shard, alongside the world’s tallest hospital tower, Guy’s.

To the right, and less rooted to the Earth, is our planet’s nearest neighbour, the Moon. Even further to the right, the solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter, appears as a starlike white light.

This juxtaposition of Earth and sky, of London and space, is right up my street.

Indian Fine Dining at Tamarind

Posted by Ruth

Where: 20 Queen Street, Mayfair, W1J
Cost: Mains approx £20 per person (pre/post theatre set menu £28.50)
Website: http://www.tamarindrestaurant.com/
Rating:

Michelin stars and Indian food don’t often go together in most people’s minds. Often going for a curry is more of a guilty pleasure where we all order, and eat, too much. Tamarind, a Michelin starred Indian restaurant, seeks to challenge those perceptions. Keen to test out the reality, we took advantage of a London Restaurant Festival menu deal in October.

On arrival at this beautiful, but understated, restaurant, we were treated exceptionally well (often not the case when having pre-booked with a cheaper menu), and the great service continued throughout. After selecting our dishes we were quickly brought delicious poppadoms with an array of chutneys. A regular start to an Indian meal you might think – but this was on a different plane to the norm. The poppadoms were light and fresh, while the chutneys were enthralling – particularly the date and ginger variety.

Each dish that followed lived up to this high standard. Our starters of spiced chickpeas and chicken kebab sounded simple, but actually delivered complex flavours and techniques.

The mains (paneer and lamb curries) were beautifully spiced, and served with freshly made Indian breads and pilau rice. The lentil side dish was probably the least exiting aspect of the meal, but still tasty.

The deserts (never traditionally a high point of an Indian meal) were sublime. Cinnamon and pistachio rice pudding was creamy and sweet. Carrot fudge was inspired, a simple dish that enveloped the taste-buds.

Verdict:

A fantastic restaurant, and a must for fans of Indian food. It may not offer the levels of presentation found in many Michelin starred restaurants, but this is appropriate for the cuisine, and in no way detracts from the quality of the dishes. There are also affordable lunch and evening set menus available.

St. Paul’s and Tower Bridge seen through a telescope from the Royal Observatory Greenwich

Posted by Colin

St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge must be two of the most photographed landmarks in London. But chances are they haven’t been snapped like this before…

On Wednesday night I was leading a telescope viewing session at the Royal Observatory Greenwich as part of their annual Evening With The Stars season. At the start of the night our view of the Moon and Jupiter was obscured by cloud and so I turned the telescope’s attention to something a little more terrestrial: Central London.

If you’ve ever been up on Greenwich Hill you’ll know what a spectacular view of the Capital it provides. I was able to centre the telescope on the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is beautifully bracketed by Tower Bridge from the vantage point up on the hill.

Being such a cold night the view was pin sharp and I was able to stick my iPhone at the eye piece and capture this unique view of the two famous landmarks (click image for larger version).

You can spot the coat of arms of the City of London sitting on the gantry of the bridge on the far left of the picture. The glowing “ropes” are also clearly visible.

The telescope eyepiece with Wren’s St. Paul’s in view, and another of his creations in the background

It was even possible to see the flag of St. George fluttering atop the bridge (look closely, and perhaps zoom in and you’ll see it. It is a little dark due to being in shadow but you can definitely see the cross on the flag!) We could even tell the time by the cathedral clock.

Such a gorgeous view was particularly apt as the cathedral’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren, was also responsible for designing Flamsteed House – the Observatory’s flagship building.

So from a distance of 5 miles (as the crow flies) I was able to unite two of Wren’s most stunning creations. We got to see Jupiter and the Moon once the clouds had lifted, but sometimes London can be just as beautiful as the heavens.

Related Posts:

There is more than one St. Paul’s Cathedral in London…

A photo of London from space

The Shard, The Moon and Jupiter

Eerie water at London Bridge Station

Aside

Posted by Colin

I have always been fascinated with humans’ ability to spot a face anywhere. We’ve been programmed by evolution to recognize facial features, but I didn’t expect one to be staring up at me from the pavement by London Bridge station on my way home last night.

This puddle, in the shape of a cartoon man’s head, has everything from a quiff of hair at the top to a chin at the bottom. He is furnished in between with an eyebrow jutting out, a long protruding nose and a Lesley Ash-esque trout pout. Or it could be a Charlie Chaplin Movember tribute.

Perhaps a silly thing to share, but it amused me!

The Garden Café

Posted by Ruth

Where: 5 Lambeth Palace Road, SE1
Cost: Under £10 per person
Website: www.gardenmuseum.org.uk
Twitter: @GardenMuseumLDN
Rating:

There are many unusual places to have lunch in London, but it’s not often you find yourself eating in a disused Church by the side of the river. This is the setting of the Garden Café in Lambeth, a simple vegetarian café, which is part of the Garden Museum.

The café offers a small daily-changing menu and is inspired by the vegetables grown in the garden adjourning the museum, and sourced where possible from local ingredients. The food is simple, but provides a refreshing lunch.

Dishes such as goats cheese and beetroot tart, and homemade soup are on offer, along with an array of tempting cakes. Some, which appear classic on first glance, actually include the humble vegetable (such as Butternut Squash cake) – not that uncommon nowadays, but still a nice reflection of the vegetarian emphasis.

Whilst we did not visit the Museum itself, it was apparent that this is a mecca for anyone with a passion for gardening. The museum houses artefacts and exhibitions about the history of the British garden.

It was set up in 1977 in the abandoned St Mary’s Church, as a tribute to John Tradescant (the first great Gardener in British history), who was buried in the church ceremony – hence the distinctive location.

Adjoining the cafe is small shop with a range of rare gardening books – a great place to pick up a gift for a green fingered friend.

Verdict:
Recommended if you’re looking for a cheap vegetarian lunch in an interesting location – but be warned, it’s absolutely freezing in the Church so wrap up warm!

In search of the cousin of the T.A.R.D.I.S.

Posted by Colin

Where: St. Martin’s Le Grand, EC2

As big Doctor Who fans it is disappointing that, apart from a replica outside Earl’s Court Tube Station, London is now devoid of any of the blue police boxes the like of which the 900 year old Gallifreyan uses in his travels around the universe.

In the 1950s there were almost 700 sprinkled across the city. By 1969 the Home Secretary (and future Prime Minister) James Callaghan ordered their removal as they were no longer useful.

However, those searching out blue phone boxes in the Capital will have some luck in the City of London, even if this particular breed doesn’t quite live up to the grandeur of the Mackenzie Trench-style.

Smaller and a brighter shade of blue, this cousin of the T.A.R.D.I.S. is no longer operational but it was once used by policemen to contact their nearest stations. They also acted as an emergency phone box for members of the public.

It is interesting to note that in older pictures of this particular box on St. Martin’s Le Grand it is painted the same colour as the T.A.R.D.I.S. style boxes. Was it changed due to the re-introduction of the popular BBC series in 2005? If you know, then let us know!