Church Crawl 2011
Report by Mary Cruse
What a day!
"Where have you come from?"
"Norfolk", "Bedfordshire", "Gloucester", "Southampton", "Kensal Rise", "West Croydon", "Worthing", and "Kent" came the answers. The London Gallery Quire. and friends from all over England, it seemed, came together on Saturday, September 24th, for a journey around churches in the East End of London. Tucked away in the middle of the extraordinary juxtaposition of urban decay and regeneration that is Docklands, are four churches, each with its own tale to tell.
Kathryn Rose, anticipating the festive season, led us off "Shepherds rejoice", and East truly met West Gallery. "This is,fun!" said Katharine, reflecting the evident delight of the assembled company. With seven instrumentalists, there was a good mix to support the singers, including Craig Kridel visiting from the USA (surely he must have been the furthest travelled of us all ) playing a wooden bass horn. The friendly vicar told us that the church had been the focus of 'ritualism riots' in the mid 19th century, with several thousand people protesting about changes to the liturgy. He also explained how an organ had been installed in the church in the 17th century; a few boos and hisses were only to be expected from the those present.
You can find out more about the original Hawksmoor church HERE.
2. St.Mary’s, Cable Street
A short walk along Cable Street (site of the famous battle ) led us to St Mary's, consecrated in 1850, being built in a very poor slum area known as Sun Tavern Fields, or No Man's Land. Thirty years earlier it had been in the country but rapid industrialisation had led to social problems associated with poverty, including drug use, disease and poor hygiene - issues still present nowadays. We started with 'The memory of his glorious name', to Nehemiah tune, moved on through the wedding anthem, 'Blessed are all they who fear the Lord', and after several other psalms and anthems ended with Halsway Grace, by Mike Bailey. We were also introduced to the relatively new WGMA chairman, Jack Crawford, who had joined us for the day.
Lunch took us in various directions; our group found for a small park (adjacent to the Rotherhithe tunnel approach) which provided benches and grass, after which we walked down to the Thames to admire a Thames barge which was passing, and the diverse and extraordinary architecture. We gasped in astonishment at the cost of Toad in the Hole at the Narrow Inn, a Gordon Ramsey pub with a spectacular view and prices to match.
A pleasant walk along the Regent canal, led us to Commercial Road, passing a now derelict library established by the Victorian philanthropist, John Passmore Edwards. Our next church was St Anne's, Limehouse, an immense building with a very imposing aspect as we approached. St Anne's is another Hawksmoor church, but is internally in poor repair; the vicar told us that maintenance alone costs £2000 a week. It is a beautiful building however, and has been described as 'Hawksmoor's perfect church'. Of note was the East window, which is one of only three enamelled glass windows in the country, giving a depth of colour and translucence which was very remarkable. Although the church has a gallery around three walls, it is not in use because of the lack of fire exits! The building is blessed with a wonderful acoustic which was shown to its best in our singing of 'Christ the Lord is risen today' and 'Arise and hail the glorious star'. Mike led us in ' The Lord my pasture shall prepare', written by Reverend Phocion Henley, who was Rector of St Andrew by the Wardrobe until his death in 1768 at the young age of 44 - it was commented that we had undoubtedly lost much music as a consequence of his early demise.
You can find out more about the history of St.Anne's HERE and some excellent pictures of St.Anne's and other Hawksmoor churches HERE
Our final walk of the day took us to St.Dunstan's, Stepney, passing waterlilies in the Regent canal, clinging on in the midst of the turbulent water near a weir. There has been a church on the site of St.Dunstan's for over a thousand years, and it is notable amongst other things for its bells which date back to 1385 and are commemorated in the nursery rhyme 'Oranges and Lemons'....'when will that be, say the bells of Stepney'.
We were told that the church had a strong maritime connection: Tony Singleton led us in 'Ye boundless realms of joy' to 'Portsmouth' tune as the nearest thing to a link with the sea in the day's repertoire. We also enjoyed singing a setting of Psalm 24 'Ye gates, lift up your heads on high', and gave a very spirited rendition of 'While shepherds watched' ( to Knapp's 'Leicester' tune). After other favourites from the book 'Your voices raise', we concluded the day with the London Gallery Quire's 'own song', 'Praise ye the Lord: Our God to praise' in which we all joined with great gusto.
After all this singing and walking we were hungry and thirsty so we were delighted with the cups of tea, shortbread and biscuits which were ready waiting for us, and it was agreed that we had all had a splendid day; varied, interesting, well-organised, and above all great fun. Huge thanks to Stella for all of her very hard work, to the churches for hosting us, to the leaders for their conducting, the instrumentalists for sterling playing and to all of us for making it such a happy and successful day.
Photos by Ced Morgan and Tony Singleton
More details of the book we sang from - "Your Voices Raise" - can be found HERE
Return to Home Page See pictures from 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009