Tomorrow morning, Margaret Thatcher will make her final journey from Westminster, down the Strand and along Fleet Street to St Paul's cathedral, where her funeral service will take place; no doubt amidst much media coverage and discussion, whereby the differing opinions surrounding her life and death which have evidently divided the nation, will be broadcast, repeated and written about in equal measure. I have no interest in adding to this, but thought I'd take the opportunity to mention another building of worship, aside from St Paul's, that played a part in Baroness Thatcher's life, albeit it, in very different circumstances.
If you head from St Paul's cathedral, out past Moorgate and up the City Road towards Old Street, you will pass by a Methodist Chapel, called Wesley's Chapel, and it was here, in 1951 that Margaret Thatcher, then aged 26, married the millionaire divorcee, Denis Thatcher. It was also, where her two children, Mark and Carol Thatcher were Christened and the Communion rail that surrounds the altar was given to the chapel by Thatcher herself.
Perhaps Margaret Thatcher's association with Methodism is unimportant, but what strikes me as being slightly more pertinent is perhaps the effect of watching her father, Alf Roberts, who when Margaret was a young girl, was a famed preacher in the Lincolnshire Methodist circuit. When Margaret went to Oxford University, she joined the Wesley Memorial Chapel there and became a lay preacher, later using her skills for rhetoric and public speaking on a political platform rather than religious.
We pass by the building on my Sunday east London walk, and aside from its minor relevance to the events taking place tomorrow, is an interesting building and place to visit in its own right.
John Wesley (1703-1791), whose statue stands in the courtyard is considered (along with his brother Charles) as being the founder of Methodism. The first Methodist chapel operated out of an old cannon foundry just behind the present site, and the current building, completed in 1778 by George Dance the Younger under the instructions of Wesley, was what the preacher described as 'perfectly neat, but not fine'. Aside from visiting the chapel itself, which has undergone numerous alterations over the years, there is a museum down in the crypt (currently closed for refurbishment until the end of May) which tells the history of Methodism from Wesley until the present day, and you can also visit John Wesley's house, on the right of the courtyard as you enter, a fine example of a Georgian town house.
Wesley was what was known as a circuit preacher, so he would spend most of the year riding around the country on horse back, preaching to various different communities dotted around the country. He would only stay here over the winter months, but the house was also occupied by numerous other preachers and servants. If you're interested in London curiosities, then amongst other things, you might like the chair that Wesley had made especially, which replicated the sensation of being on a horse, to ensure the muscles in his legs, important for horse riding, didn't dwindle.
If you do visit Wesley's Chapel and even if, whilst you're there, you don't need the toilet, I'd recommend visiting the gentlemen's toilets (even if you're a lady) as they are original Thomas Crapper's, still in perfect working order after being first installed in the late 19th century. Crapper's name might be familiar to you, as he is often attributed with inventing the flushing toilet. In actual fact, he was a plumber, who gained his first Royal Warrant in the 1880's and facilitated the whole process rather than inventing it, as is often said. I particularly like the hand pulls, which come complete with the simple instructions 'pull and let go'.
weekend roundup - 10th/11th dec
On Saturday I was joined by Gaby and Erica, and after meeting at The Monument, quickly decanted to a nearby coffee place, where I was able to bore them with historical type stuff relating to the area and London Bridge from the warmth that being inside often brings.
They wanted to have a mooch round Borough Market. I took this photo whilst they were mooching.
In the background you can see Southwark Cathedral. I have a copy of brilliant panorama of London, Bankside and the Thames by Nicholas John Visscher. He made it in 1616, which incidentally was the same year that William Shakespeare died. That same church (didn't become a cathedral until 1905) is in that picture. Also, Edmund, Shakespeare's younger brother is buried there. I love the fact that it's still presiding over things.
Also, just a bit further along, next to the Wobbly Bridge is a house that people say that Christopher Wren lived in whilst watching St Paul's being built. There is a plaque on the house which says exactly the same thing. He didn't, the house wasn't built then. However, I've just started reading a book called 'The House by the Thames' by Gillian Tindall, which is all about that house through hundreds of years of history, or more to the point she uses it as a way of discussing the area. So far, so fascinating.
Here are Saturday's Chalkers, and from the photo, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the height of summer, and not a cold December morning.
We finished up in Ye Old Cheshire Cheese for a drinkie poops. It's the new pub on the site, built in 1667. The previous one burnt down in some kind of fire apparently.
Sunday. Yes, Sunday. 'My neck of the woods'. A few people dropped out, but despite the prevailing greyness and coldness of the day, we carried on, and I have to say, was rather enjoyable.
It was a Sunday, and on Sundays, the Methodists at the Wesleyan Chapel near Old Street hold a service, so I would like to thank them for not only welcoming us in, despite not wishing to attend the aforementioned service, but actively encouraging us to go and see their toilets. They're very proud of their toilets at the Wesleyan Chapel, and so they should be. They're original Crappers. Thomas Crapper is often accredited with inventing the flushing toilet, but it would seem, that particular accolade goes to a guy called John Harrington way back in 1596. Either way, Crapper did much for the modern day toilet and its flushing system, the Wesleyan Chapel have original Crappers and we went and saw them.
I also like the instructions written for Victorians, unsure of how a Crapper might work; 'PULL AND LET GO.'
The thing with the east end, it's a real hotch-potch, so you see Crappers, like you've just seen, plague burial grounds, Shakespeare's stomping ground and giant animals ...
... just one of the many pieces of street art that are all over the area. This particular creature was done by Peter Roa, who also painted the crane, which Kalpana (previous Chalker) took a picture of on Brick Lane last week. Anyway ... we then went and had a cuppa at I made it for you, which is a great little tea shop place that's opened up on Pitfield Street (which you can see in my last blog 'Shoreditch/Hoxton then & now') and wandered around the area, which I have to say has far more secrets than people give it credit for, until we stopped at The Water Poet, a pub named after an Elizabethan waterman called John Taylor. C'est tout.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.