Thursday, 21 May 2015

A Year in Pictures – 20 and 21 May 2015 – The Soprano and The Violinist

One of the joys of working at St Olave Hart Street is that we have a tradition of twice-weekly lunchtime classical music recitals. While I am typing away or shuffling papers in my office I can hear, through the double doors that lead into the church, some of the finest music in the world.

The recital tradition at St Olave's goes back over 50 years and a number of world famous artists have, in their younger days, honed their art in the generous acoustic of the little church on Hart Street. Most of the performers are still in the early stages of their professional careers and some are still studying, so the performance opportunities presented to them at St Olave's are very welcome to them.

Here are photos of two of this week's performers.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

A Year In pictures – 19 May 2015 – Change and Growth

I thought you might like a look at how the new herb beds in the churchyard at St Olave Hart Street are doing. The recent rains and some sunshine have encouraged exuberant growth and the plants are now carpeting the area more lushly, filling it with a variety of colours and leaf shapes, and delighting the eye with small delicate flowers.

In memoriam William Turner (c.1508–1568), Dean of Wells, doctor of physic, "father of English botany".

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A Year in Pictures – 15 to 18 May 2015 – More Façadism, A Tall Pointy Tower, A Lofty Leafy Thing and The Bright Blazing Sun of Eventide

On Friday afternoon, 15 May, I was at the western end of Oxford Street, where an extreme example of façadism is on display. While the engineering involved is a thing to behold, why are two Victorian façades being preserved as a figleaf for the enormous residential development (at present a large hole in the ground) that is to be placed behind them? Such efforts suggest a lack of confidence in modern architecture coupled to a guilt about eradicating the past on this particular patch of London turf.

On Saturday 16 May, my wife and I went to Portsmouth to see my mother. It was good day and the sun blazed from a virtually cloudless sky, although the air was still quite chilly. Here is the Millennium Tower that dominates Gunwharf Quays and has become a major landmark on Portsea Island. At night it is illuminated in a variety of colours.

Sunday 17 May saw the second day of the "Marriott Sevens" at Twickenham Rugby Stadium. The town found itself turned over the weekend into a giant litter bin/urinal/vomitorium for the hordes of 18-25 year-olds drawn by the mindless and irresponsible advertising of the sponsors and the Rugby Football Union, who seem to think that a noisy hedonistic drinkfest is just what the increasingly hard-pressed residents need to wake them out of their cosy complacency. The litter and debris visible when we drove into our road at around 9:20 the previous evening was truly shocking. No efforts were being made to clear this ghastly mess, with the result that detritus would be blown into people's gardens, as well as local parks and streams. I did not witness the scenes in the middle of the town, but they were by all accounts not pretty.

There was mercifully no evidence of this in Richmond College's playing fields on Sunday as I made my way through them back to my house. All was peaceful there, although the fields are within sight of the RFU Stadium, where Sevens matches were still in progress. This was also a sunny day and I spent quite a while photographing an elm and an ash that stand next to each other by the path along the edge of the fields. The leaves are new and their colours fresh and vibrant. Here is one of the shots I took up through the dramatically zig-zagging branches of the ash towards the bright midday sky beyond. 

If you have read some previous posts, you will know that I am no fan of 20 Fenchurch Street, aka "The Walkie-Talkie". It punishes those who walk by it with fierce winds that I know are of concern to the City of London's planning department (who rejected the development, but were ultimately overruled by the then Secretary of State, whose name I neither know nor can be bothered to find out). There are nevertheless things I like about the building, not least the layout of the pavement at its feet, seen here.

At around 6:30pm on Monday, 18 May, we are looking east along Fenchurch Street to the junction with Gracechurch Street and on into Lombard Street, at whose end lies the great commuter magnet that is Bank Station. Not the greatest of shots, but it was taken on my phone and then put through various software hoops to try and tone down the dazzling setting sun. I hope it captures something of the drama of that early evening sun at this time of year.

Friday, 15 May 2015

A Year in Pictures – 14 May 2015 – Praise

Every May for the last five years we have put on a fund-raising concert at the church of St Katharine Cree on Leadenhall Street in the City of London.

It is called "The Widow's Mite", the idea being that musicians, most of whom have an existing association with the church, each perform brief items. The title recalls the comments of Jesus on seeing rich people bringing large gifts to the temple treasury and a poor widow depositing two small copper coins. The widow, observed Jesus, had given more than all the rich because she had given sacrificially, while they had contributed out of their abundance. Admission to the concert is a modest amount and a hot meal is served. Additional donations are invited and everyone contributes what they can to the evening. It is a joyful and inspiring event and has raised several thousand pounds each year for the much needed restoration of the church, which is a building loved and used by many.

Here is one of the contributors, singing a gospel song.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Year in Pictures – 13 May 2015 – St Mary Woolnoth (2)

I am reading 'This Changes Everything' by Naomi Klein, a book that manages to be hopeful and highly dispiriting at the same time, its subject being how we can possibly address the  current crisis of climate change, which by scientific consensus is due to human agency. Since her thesis—which I have for many years believed, by what feels like intuition, to be right—is that resolution of the issues and the survival of civilised values depends on abandoning the pursuit of economic growth in the form that is almost universal among nations, I emerged from Exit 6 of Bank Station this morning with my head spinning at the enormity of the task facing us all.

To regain some sense of perspective and calm I decided to take a quick detour into the church of St Mary Woolnoth and revel in the dazzling order of its architecture. Not escapism, I hope, but an aid to greater clarity of thought and, therefore, of action.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Year in Pictures – 12 May 2015 – Nightmare on Seething Lane

OK, so what we are looking at here? We are standing just to the north of the gateway (visible in profile at camera right) into the churchyard of St Olave Hart Street, looking south along Seething Lane. The hoarding advises us that the building on the left is Ten Trinity Square, largely hidden in this image behind the boxy structure with its parapet of green glass.

The area surrounded by the dark hoarding has the status of public garden, maintained by the Corporation of London, but the plants and trees (including mature mulberries) were removed a couple of years or more ago to enable the garden area to be used, albeit temporarily, to site construction cranes and equipment needed to convert Ten Trinity Square to a six-star (I kid you not) hotel and apartment block with two levels of basement carpark. Excavation revealed 19th-century vaulted cellars that had belonged to the East India Company, which once was based here, while at the southern end an extensive stretch of 16th-century brick wall was uncovered.

The garden is due to be replanted and something better than what was there before has been promised. So it had better be, because the boxy thing with the green parapet—presumably access to the underground carparks—is an oppressive eyesore and a pretty nasty bit of construction to place so close to listed buildings. Ten Trinity Square was opened by Prime Minister David Lloyd George in 1922 as the headquarters of The Port of London Authority and is Grade II listed. The building hosted the inaugural meeting of the United Nations in 1946 and more recently, before the current conversion works, was the European headquarters of the insurance brokers Willis. St Olave Hart Street meanwhile is listed Grade I, as are all the churches in the City of London.

Yes, but what are we looking at? The name of the street entering Seething Lane at camera left gives a clue, for it is Pepys Street. The box has been plonked on nothing less than the site of the 17th-century Navy Office, where Samuel Pepys lived from 1660 until 1673, when the building was destroyed by fire. All but the first few months of his peerless Diary were written while he was living in Seething Lane and attending St Olave's, which is where he was buried alongside his wife Elizabeth, who died in 1669, and his brother John. The fame of Pepys has spread across the world and interest in him is not confined to the English-speaking countries.

Ten Trinity Square is not yet occupied as further fitting out is being carried out, but the exterior stonework has been restored to dazzling effect. All the more surprising then that the box has been allowed into this prestigious space, although the sort of cars that will be parked beneath Ten Trinity Square can be imagined from the fact that a one-bedroom apartment in the converted building will be priced at £5 million.

Monday, 11 May 2015

A Year in Pictures – 11 May 2015 – Cherub

As mentioned in my post for 31 January last, the pulpit from St Benet Gracechurch is now in St Olave Hart Street.

Here is a detail from one of the three beautifully carved facets of the pulpit, each of which features a cherub's face surrounded by ornate foliage. This particular one looks to the south and is most easy to shoot in natural light, because it gets plenty of it. St Benet's was demolished in the 19th century to allow for the widening of Gracechurch Street and to release funds for the construction of St Benet Mile End Road. Trinity House made funds available for St Olave's to buy St Benet's pulpit, while its font went to All Hallows Lombard Street.

Demolition was the fate of a number of City churches in the 19th century, which saw a marked reduction in the residential population of The Square Mile as the suburbs were extensively developed, a process accelerated by the arrival of the railways. The Lombard Street church was itself demolished in 1937, its key fitments and tower being transferred to Twickenham and housed in the new church of All Hallows Twickenham, built to serve the spiritual needs of the new housing developments close to the A316 (otherwise known as the Chertsey Road) that leads west out of London.