Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 42 - On the Strand to the Cafe to Book of Mormon

Today we took off to purchase some charity Christmas cards from the St. Clement Danes Church on the Strand.  They have some lovely cards and they reflect London as well as UK scenes.  On our way we shot some photos.  The first being The Savoy Hotel and Theatre on the Strand.

We saw Legally Blonde there in 2010 and currently Let it Be is playing at The Savoy Theatre.  The entrance to both the theatre and the hotel is extremely classy.

The Savoy Theatre
We continued along the Strand and came across St Mary le Strand, a small parish church of the united parish of St Mary le Strand with St Clement Danes.  St Mary le Strand is often said to the the loveliest Baroque church in England.  Designed by James Gibbs, the church was built between 1714 and 1723 and consecrated in 1724.

St Mary le Strand with St Clement Danes on the right
Below the foundations of the church are traces of Roman, Saxon and Medieval London, when the Strand was a vital link between the City of London and the Royal and monastic settlement at Westminster. The parish of St Mary le Strand may lay a good claim to being one of the oldest parishes in London. It stands dominating a roadway which since prehistory has been the main artery to the west from the City of London. In early Saxon times the Strand area was the very heart of London, for it seems that the City was effectively abandoned by the newly-arrived settlers.

There is no record of when St Mary le Strand was founded, but the first church, which was dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, stood just south of the present church on a site now covered by Somerset House. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Bishops of Worcester were the Patrons of the parish and had their London residence on an adjoining site. For throughout the period from the Norman Conquest to the Reformation, the Strand was mainly the home of bishops and princes. Within the parish were the "inns" - large town houses with chapels, stables and accommodation for a large retinue - of the Bishops of Worcester, Llandaff, Coventry and Lichfield. A large part of the parish was absorbed by the building of a great house, the Palace of the Savoy, by Count Peter of Savoy, the uncle of Henry III, in the 1240s. A century later this became the home of John of Gaunt, Earl of Lancaster, and the palace became a centre of culture; among its residents was Geoffrey Chaucer, who was married in the palace chapel. Gaunt's unpopularity, as the king's chief minister, caused the palace to be burned in the Peasant's Revolt. Despite its long absence, the fame of the palace has lasted in the area and was recreated in the nineteenth century by the Savoy Hotel and Theatre.

St Mary le Strand nave
The site where the present church stands was occupied in medieval times by Strand Cross. The origins of this are unclear. It was not a cross erected in memory of Queen Eleanor - as was Charing Cross - but seems to have dated back at least to Norman times. Perhaps it began as a market cross; by the early fourteenth century it had been rebuilt in a lavish manner, almost certainly following the design of the Eleanor Crosses. Strand Cross was a famous site and it is recorded that in the thirteenth century the local magistrates held their assizes in front of it.

Until the sixteenth century, the Strand was no more than a line of Bishops' palaces on the south side of the roadway stretching all the way to Whitehall. On the north side stood a wall which bounded the Convent - later Covent - Garden, while the churches further away, St Martin's and St Giles, stood "in-the-fields". All this was to change with the Reformation.

The bishops' inns around the church were seized by Edward Lord Protector ((Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, served as Lord Protector of England during the minority of his nephew King Edward VI (1547–1553), in the period between the death of King Henry VIII in 1547 and his own indictment in 1549) who set about building himself a renaissance palace (Somerset Palace) in what was then the most fashionable part of town. Even with the extensive site that he had now obtained, further space was needed and towards the end of 1548 the Lord Protector's workmen fell upon St Mary's church and demolished it to provide stone for the new palace. Further stone was provided by the demolition of a cloister at St Paul's Cathedral known as Pardon Churchyard and the greater part of the Priory of St John at Clerkenwell. Even by the standards of the time, the demolition of so much sacred property was an outrage. Somerset was never to enjoy living in his new palace; just as it was nearing completion he was overthrown by his political enemies and executed at Tower Hill in 1551.

Somerset House
It is said that Somerset had intended to build a new parish church. If so, all thought of it passed away with his fall. Initially, the parishioners scattered but within a short time we find them gathered in the chapel of St John the Baptist in the Savoy. Here they would remain for the next 175 years. Now known at "St Mary le Savoy", the parishioners chose and paid for their own ministers. The most famous of these was Thomas Fuller, the church historian, who was appointed in 1642, fled during the Civil War and was restored to his living in 1660.

Following the execution of Somerset, his palace had passed to the possession of the Crown. Elizabeth I occasionally lodged there and it was from Somerset House that she set off to give thanks after the defeat of the Armada. Under the Stuarts, extensive improvements were made to the palace, the most impressive being the lavish Roman Catholic chapel built by Charles I's queen, Henrietta Maria.

The roadway in front of Somerset House, where Strand Cross had stood and where the present church was later to stand, was occupied in the early seventeenth century by a windmill used to pump water. In 1634 the first Hackney Carriage stand in England was established here by one Captain Bailey. Here also a maypole was erected which became the most famous maypole in London. Demolished by the Puritans, a new maypole was erected in 1661. Parts of this maypole remained until 1717, when they were removed and presented to Sir Isaac Newton as the base for a telescope.

St Clement Danes
Deriving its name from the earliest church to stand on the site, founded by descendants of the Danish invaders, whom Alfred the Great allowed to remain in London in the 9th century, St Clement Danes sits isolated on a traffic island in the middle of the Strand.

The body of the present church was rebuilt in 1680 - 82 by Sir Christopher Wren, and in 1669 Joshua Marshall created the west tower, the familiar spire added by James Gibbs in 1719.

St Clements Danes was damaged by bombing in 1941, and the restoration work was carried out by Anthony Lloyd in 1955.

Inside of St Clement Danes
The galleried interior, with its dark stained wood, follows Wren's original.  Above the galleries Corinthian columns and coffered arches support the tunnel-vault of the nave.

The east end consists of a quadrant bay on each side and an apse, and over each arch are the Stuart arms.  The reredos, built in the Wren style, has two large panels painted by Ruskin Spear representing the Annunciation.

Other features include the east window depicting Christ in Glory created by Carl Edwards, a highly-carved pulpit dating from the 17th century with an ornate lecturn designed by Anthony Lloyd, and in the west gallery is a gilded organ by Ralph Downes.

Dr. Samuel Johnson, 1709 - 84, was a regular member of the congregation of St Clement Danes.  During the 17th to 19th centuries many people were buried in the crypt and the chain hanging on the crypt wall was used to secure the coffin lids against body-snatchers.

Since 1958 St Clement Danes has served as the central church of the Royal Air Force.  The nave and aisles have the crests of hundreds of RAF squadrons, and below the aisle windows are the RAF rolls of honour.  The unusually wide aisle of the church has over 700 squadron badges in slate set into the floor.  At the west end is a larger badge for the RAF, surrounded by the badges of overseas allies, together with carved stalls for the commanders of the RAF. 

Statue of Gladstone outside St Clement Danes Church
Additional statues standing outside the church are of Lord Dowding, victor of the Battle of Britain, and Sir Arthur (Bomber) Harris, Marshall of the RAF.

Statues of  Sir Arthur (Bomber Harris) and Lord Dowding
As the Strand curves around St. Clement Danes, it turns into Fleet Street, making the Royal Courts of Justice just visible on the left side of the church.

Royal Courts of Justice
The Royal Courts of Justice, commonly called the Law Courts, houses both the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. Designed by George Edmund Street, who died before it was completed, it is a large grey stone edifice in the Victorian Gothic style built in the 1870s and opened by Queen Victoria in 1882. It is located on the Strand (as it becomes Fleet Street)near the border with the City of London (Temple Bar). It is surrounded by the four Inns of Court, King's College London and the London School of Economics.

The courts within the building are open to the public, although there may be some restrictions depending upon the nature of the cases being heard. Those in court who do not have legal representation may receive some assistance within the building. There is a citizens' advice bureau based within the Main Hall which provides free, confidential and impartial advice by appointment to anyone who is a litigant in person in the courts. There is also a Personal Support Unit where litigants in person can receive emotional support and practical information about what court proceedings.

Close-up of main entrance to Royal Courts of Justice
Entering through the main gates on the Strand, one passes under two elaborately carved porches fitted with iron gates. The carving over the outer porch consists of heads of the most eminent judges and lawyers. Over the highest point of the upper arch is a figure of Jesus; to the left and right at a lower level are figures of Solomon and Alfred the Great; that of Moses is at the northern front of the building. Also at the northern front, over the Judges entrance are a stone cat and dog representing fighting litigants in court.


One of our "traditions" when visiting London near Christmas is to purchase Christmas Cards that help British charities.  They have lovely cards that range from humorous to religious, but we prefer the ones that have winter scenes of the sites we've visited.

Golden Trees card with Card Aid Logo
For over 30 years Card Aid has helped charities make money from their Christmas cards.
Card Aid shops were developed to provide an outlet for charities to sell their Christmas cards to a wider public. There are now about 30 Card Aid shops selling charity Christmas cards on behalf of over 200 charities.

A lot of their "store fronts" are located in churches, and the closest one to us was at St. Clement Danes.  So after looking about the church, we went through their selection and purchased about 20 GBP of cards along with a couple of lapel poppies for Remembrance Day, which will be celebrated on Sunday, November 10 this year.

I'll talk more about Remembrance Day and its observance on Sunday's post.  The docent at St. Mary Le Strand recommended we try to see King's College Chapel if we had the time, so after we made our purchases we headed back to King's College London.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the east wing of Somerset House now houses part of King's College London.

King's College - East wing of Somerset House
King's College, so named to indicate the patronage of King George IV, was founded in 1829 in response to the theological controversy surrounding the founding of "London University" (which later became University College London) in 1827. London University was founded, with the backing of Utilitarians, Jews and non-Anglican Christians, as a secular institution, intended to educate "the youth of our middling rich people between the ages of 15 or 16 and 20 or later" giving its nickname, "the godless college in Gower Street".

The need for such an institution was a result of the religious and social nature of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which then educated solely the sons of wealthy Anglicans. The secular nature of London University was disapproved by The Establishment, indeed, "the storms of opposition which raged around it threatened to crush every spark of vital energy which remained". Thus, the creation of a rival institution represented a Tory response to reassert the educational values of The Establishment. More widely, King's was one of the first of a series of institutions which came about in the early nineteenth century as a result of the Industrial Revolution and great social changes in England following the Napoleonic Wars. By virtue of its foundation King's has enjoyed the patronage of the monarch, the Archbishop of Canterbury as its Visitor and during the nineteenth century counted among its official governors the Lord Chancellor, Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Mayor of London.

Rumors in the press of a competing institution in the tradition of the established church appeared in 1827, but the idea was first defined early in 1828 by Reverend Dr George D'Oyly, Rector of Lambeth, in an open letter to Sir Robert Peel, the then Home Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons. A scheme emerged during the summer of 1828 and a public meeting to launch King's, chaired by the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, and attended by the Archbishops of York, Canterbury and Armagh, and two members of the Cabinet (Peel and the Earl of Aberdeen) was held on 21 June 1828. A committee of twenty-seven was appointed to raise funds and to frame regulations and building plans, but the sum raised by subscription was inadequate. The Crown granted a site lying between the Strand and the Thames to the College and building began in 1829.

King's College London from the air with Big Ben in the background
King's College London (informally King's or KCL) is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom, and a constituent college of the federal University of London. King's is arguably the third-oldest university in England, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, receiving its royal charter in the same year. In 1836 King's became one of the two founding colleges of the University of London.

King's is organised into nine academic schools, spread across four Thames-side campuses in central London and another in Denmark Hill in south London. It is one of the largest centres for graduate and post-graduate medical teaching and biomedical research in Europe; it is home to six Medical Research Council centres, the most of any British university, and is a founding member of the King's Health Partners academic health sciences centre. King's has around 25,000 students and 6,113 staff with a total income of £554.2 million in 2011/12, of which £154.7 million was from research grants and contracts.

Entrance to King's College from the Strand
King's is ranked 19th in the world (and 8th in Europe) in the 2013 QS World University Rankings, 38th in the world (and 9th in Europe) in the 2013 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 67th in the world (and 18th in Europe) in the 2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities. There are currently 12 Nobel Prize laureates amongst King's alumni and current and former faculty. In September 2010, The Sunday Times selected King's as its "University of the Year". King's is a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the European University Association, the Russell Group and Universities UK. It forms part of the 'golden triangle' of British universities.

King's is one of the top universities in the world, a top destination choice of Marshall Scholars and its graduates are highly sought by firms across the globe; in a survey, by the New York Times, of global business leaders when asked to name the top universities they like to recruit from, King's ranked 22nd in the world and 5th in the UK.

King's College London Grand Staircase
In order to get to the King's College London Chapel, you need to climb the grand staircase.  There might be a lift for those who have difficulty climbing stairs, but we didn't see one, so up we climbed.

KIng's College London Chapel
King's College London Chapel is a Grade I listed 19th century chapel located in the Strand Campus of King's College London, London, England. Originally designed by Sir Robert Smirke in 1831, the Renaissance Revival chapel seen today was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1864, at a cost of just over £7,000.

Cartoon of the duel between the Earl of Winchilsea and the Duke of Wellington
The Duke of Wellington, victor of the Battle of Waterloo and Prime Minister, chaired the public meeting which launched King's on 21 June 1828. Early in 1829 the Earl of Winchilsea publicly challenged Wellington about his simultaneous support for the Anglican King's College and the Roman Catholic Relief Act. The result was a duel in Battersea Fields on 21 March. Shots were fired but no-one was hurt.

I have much more to write, but we came back from The Book of Mormon late, so I'm going to have to catch up when I can.  Great show by the way.  Until tomorrow.


  1. What wonderful history! I love visiting old churches. When we were last in France, we made the circuit or historic sites in Aix-en-Provence, and among them were several Catholic churches. Some of the biggest churches in the world, however, are American cathedrals. People love to worship in grand settings. I guess the awe of the place makes for awe of the god.

  2. St. Clement Danes Church was especially awe-inspiring considering only the outside shell remained after the German blitz, while St Mary le Strand, which is very close, was missed entirely. So much history was lost during the war, and the reconstruction was hurried. There's still a lot of construction going on in the city, and some of the hastily erected buildings are being replaced with buildings that are more in keeping with their neighborhoods.

    Thanks for visiting.