Monday 17th August
Today is our last full day in London and so far we have spent it hunting down Southwark Cathedral. An easy task I thought …just take the underground to Southwark and ask someone where the Cathedral is. Turns out the only Southwark Cathedral they knew was St George’s Southwark Cathedral (Catholic) which is itself an ancient Gothic cathedral in the process of substantial renovation. Inside it has an unusual painted roof with the chi rho symbol repeated and in general it is a restrained Gothic style interior with a beautiful modern stained glass window on the West face.
We retraced our lengthy walk back to Southwark metro and found the map at the station we should have looked at in the first place and saw that Southwark Cathedral is actually to be found at London Bridge, one stop closer to London central. We arrived there through the busy Burrough Market at lunchtime and found a ready welcome from all staff. Southwark Cathedral lays claim to be the oldest Gothic cathedral in London and who am I to argue?
It is beautifully cared for and has many historic associations with old London. It is one of the sites of Chaucer’s pilgrimage in the Canterbury Tales, Dickens writes about it and Will Shakespeare and his brother allegedly were members of this parish in the C16th. In addition Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, a Biblical scholar who was part of the Westminster team who worked on the King James Bible is buried here as is one John Gower, who was poet laureate to both Richard 11 (when he was not away fighting or imprisoned in Europe) and to King Henry1V. The Cathedral also has a magniicent new stained glass in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. There is a very swish cafe here and we had a light but excellent lunch there.
The Cathedral has a mellow and warm feel with clearly a very caring congregation busy in and around the Cathedral in many roles. The interior is marked by a remarkable bronze and wooden screen behind the altar which features individuals who have played a significant role in the church’s long history. The simple pulpit and modern brought down communion table make an impact as does the beautifully painted and sculpted ceiling in the Crossing. This is an ancient Gothic church with warmth and love.
After lunch we watched the boats plying their trade under London Bridge for a while then ventured back into the city for a final wander through the streets of old London Town. We got out at Oxford Circle which is at the junction of Oxford and Regent Streets and absolutely retail centre. We walked the length of Regent St on one and a half sides including past Piccadilly Circus and down to Waterloo Place and the astonishingly tall tower of the Duke of York looking out over Green Park and Buckingham Palace. The traffic of mainly double decker buses and taxis was busy as ever in London and the fashion shops like Burberry and Calvin Klein were in full expensive swing. We managed to resist buying anything and returned to our pad at the Barbican.
Tonight we had a very happy reunion dinner with Beaconhills staff Colleague Amara Jensen.
Tomorrow we train to Maidstone to pick up a car to travel to Frinstead Village in Kent, home of Ann’s cousin Joyce and her husband Brian. Not sure what the wifi situation will be there so there may be a five day gap in the blog. Regards to anyone who is still reading occasionally!