Monday, 10 March 2014

Greenwich and London ...

Strange but true – I got tripped up by my ghostly escalator ...
Selfridges' Pantone
109 Yellow Fender
Guitar for their
centenary in 2009

I went to London last week for a few visits – I had some birthday presents to drop off, after visiting Selfridges for one last purchase, then on to Chancery Lane for the drop off.

I’d decided I had time, despite leaving an hour later than I intended to from here, to get down to Greenwich to see the Turner exhibition at the Maritime Museum ...

... failed at that ... I was switched off ... sitting quietly on the Docklands Light Railway – that I don’t use very often, which takes us through the revamped docks through stations: named such as West India Docks ... I wonder where they traded ?...

Canary Wharf from Cabot Square
...  then MudChute ... what happens there?!  Well it’s on the Isle of Dogs ... the muddy overspill was left from dock expansion in the 1840s ... the Isle of Dogs has some etymologically interesting connotations: please see the Wiki entry.

While I’m on this line of posting ... Canary Wharf – why its name?  Once this easterly end of London in the 1980s was opened up to office, retail and housing ... the dock areas rapidly took off, and this is now one of London’s two main financial centres: the other being the traditional City of London.

Isle of Dogs: 1899 at the
height of its commercial
Canary Wharf is located on the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs, which is bounded on three sides by one of the largest meanders in the River Thames.

From 1802, these docks were one of the busiest in the world.  In 1936 the fruit trade ships from the Mediterranean and Canary Islands docked at these wharfs ... hence the name Canary Wharf.

I completely missed the Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich station ... and found myself at Deptford – back down the steps, up the other side - and back to Greenwich ....

St Alfege Church, Greenwich
... another mistake – I should have waited for the next station: Cutty Sark ... but I didn’t realise this til I was off and walking ... however time was drawing on ... and I was thinking – now I’m too late to get to see the Exhibition so I’ll make that visit on another day.

As I walked I came across a church – a large edifice of a building from the west side – with a sign saying Church Open ... I decided to have a look inside St Alfege’s Church ...

St Alfege
.... and what a good decision that was ... designed by Wren’s assistant, the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661 – 1736), this massive Portland stone church of circa 1715 ...

... however its connections go much further back ... who is St Alfege? was my first question ... and then a millennium of history dropped into my lap – ie my brain – and what a journey I took ...

St Alfege (954 – 1012), Archbishop of Canterbury (1006), was a great church reformer and looked after his peoples ... there were no beggars in Winchester, when he was bishop in 984.

From the Church's website - a photo of a recreation of
Viking traditions ... re-enacted during the Millennial
celebrations for St Alfege 1012 - 2012

The Danes were raiding our eastern coasts; proceeded to sack Canterbury in 1011; the church was pillaged; monks and people massacred ... Alfege offered himself as hostage and he was taken in chains by ship round to Greenwich.

Alfege refused to allow anyone to ransom him ... the Danes in 1012 renewed their demands for money, eventually demanding 3,000 gold marks be paid within a week or they would kill the Archbishop.

The very Rev'd Rowan Williams -
the previous Archbishop of
Canterbury: in front of a Viking
boat, similar to those used in
Viking burials 
One week later, the enraged Danes battered him to death with meat bones and stones ... so beginneth Alfege’s journey to sainthood ... King Cnut took his body home to Canterbury in 1023 ... he was then canonised in 1078.

St Alfege church’s history is so interesting that I’ll cover it in another post ... but my journey back into London was uneventful.  I was going to go round on a new members’ tour of the National Portrait Gallery.

The gallery houses portraits of historically important famous people associated with Britain, selected on the basis of significance of the sitter, not that of the artist.

The collection includes photographs and caricatures as well as paintings, drawings and sculpture.  I spotted a photograph of Mandela, taken by the photojournalist Michael Peto, during his time in London in 1962.

Inside the National Portrait Gallery
Now I know more about the Gallery – I shall look forward to going back to exhibitions ... I have already been to one lecture that will make an interesting blog topic.

Then I thought I’d go home ... so off to the Leicester Square tube I went –  via Charing Cross ....... next stop Embankment ..... the Ghosts of dustsheets, last birthdays, five years of blogging ... and Ghostly Escalators that I couldn’t find ... all came flooding back ....

The Chandos portrait:
William Shakespeare -
held at the NPG
.... I was at Waterloo – why? Where’s my stop! – then I remembered the Embankment station was closed ... so ghostly recollections came to haunt me! 

Back to Charing Cross a walk down to Embankment station – that part was working ... talk about a convoluted journey to get my train back to Victoria Station and down to Eastbourne.

Honestly you’d have thought I’d remembered ... and I wasn’t paying attention to all those warning notices, or wretched constant reminders that we seem to spend our times having to listen to ... be it on the train, tube or bus ... so irritating!

Embankment Notice of
Temporary Closure - from my
January ghostly posting
Oh well – home once again ... having had an inadvertent off the beaten track Church visit ... very well worth it – I was so pleased I was doolally!!

Sometimes these strange but true experiences offer us so much ... and opened my eyes to the historical importance of that particular Church ...

My blog post in January ... Ghostly Reappearance from under ...  

One of my very early posts in May 2009 about Selfridges

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


  1. St Alfege sounds like a most worthy saint! What a wonderful man - very brave and very kind too! Bless his heart!

    Glad you got home safe and sound - despite ghostly escalators and closed stations!!

    Take care

  2. A simple journey turned into a walk through time.

  3. Interesting as always, Hilary, but I expected a Wormhole post - will that be later on?

    If a place presents itself, I think we should explore it, as you did the church. I love finding out of the way places and learning about their history. Enjoyed our walk with you, even when you get off route.

  4. You covered a lot of ground in one day.
    I've been to Canary Wharf!

  5. Leave it to Alex to be everywhere -- even Canary Wharf! I've been to Cannery Row but only through the pages of John Steinbeck.

    What a lovely post with even lovelier photos. St Alfege certainly earned his sainthood the old fashioned way -- by being a Man of God! :-)

    You have the right idea -- sometimes unplanned stops and unexpected blips in our plans bring us great places we never would have seen otherwise!

  6. That was quite a historical journey. The guy getting beaten to death with meat bones is one crazy image for me to fathom.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  7. I think it will take me at least one month to visit some of the places you have been, Hilary. I think a Hilary travel book is in your future. And it would finance future travels! Always learn so much from you.

  8. So it's really up for grabs, the etymology of the Isle of Dogs. Very interesting. I think I'll close my eyes and believe it had to do with Henry VIII's hunting dogs.

    I love it when you stumble on something like you did in that church. It thrills me make unexpected discoveries. The planned ones are never quite as exciting.

    I always look forward to your adventure. When I make it back to England, I'll use some of your itineraries. Thanks for them.

  9. I love when serendipitous things like that happen - what looks like a mistake or something bad turns into a wonderful experience. England is so rich with this kind of history. I must come back some day.

  10. Sounds like you did a lot of walking but the detour to the church proved an interesting diversion. Glad you got home safely at the end of the day.

  11. Thank you so much for this tour of my beloved London. When I lived in Lee Green, Kent, I used to take a train from Charing Cross, so this brought back some memories. Last night for the first time, I caught up with Mr. Selfridge on Masterpiece Classics. It was episodes 3 and 4, so how fun to see his store mentioned here. The church is lovely, I never heard of the saint. Bad Danes (glad it wasn't the Swedish vikings doing him in).

  12. A trip to the past through the streets of London and other suburbs...
    A quirky, interesting post, Hilary...

  13. @ Old Kitty - he certainly was a leader of men wasn't he .. brave and true to his faith ..

    I'm glad I got home safely without the ghosts!

    @ Susan - the walk through time turns up in the history of the church next ..

    @ DG - thanks so much - sorry I don't think I'm going to get to the Wormhole post .. blog hops aren't my forte ..

    This church was quite extraordinary .. I was amazed I stumbled upon it ..

    @ Alex - especially as I had to come up from the English Channel first .. thought you'd react to my Yellow Fender .. but no - Canary Wharf ... and you've been there: that's an interesting Alex snippet ...

    @ Roland - yes I know: it was a bit of a shock to read!! Cannery Row isn't quite the same place - good try though!

    St Alfege was a very interesting find .. as a saint being killed by ox bones, and being a Man of God .. and then via his Church ...

    It certainly wasn't what I'd intended but inadvertently I've found a gem of a church ..

    @ Arlee - I know being beaten to death at the best of times is just awful ... but could one laugh at being bashed with ox bones leading to one's death .. somehow I'd like to think of it, but the actuality = no thanks! Crazy image = that's for sure ..

    @ Tasha - no it wouldn't .. I just decide I need to do a few things in one day, otherwise I'd never get around all the sites I want to go to .. and jump the buses, pop onto trains, cram onto the tubes ... and do see what I need to ..

    Oddly enough I was thinking of another series of posts .. but not about England, or London .. oh well we'll see ..

    @ Lee - actually I'd agree with you .. but from Edward III's time - but then I've done a little more look around (called research perhaps!) ...

    The church was a great find ... and like you suddenly realising something fascinating and educative was available made it such an interesting afternoon.

    Gosh Lee! that's a dangerous thought .. my itineraries are pretty erratic at the best of times! Hopefully I can be your guide for part of it ..

    @ Karen - as you say it was serendipitous .. and on such a lovely day (spring like) .. the day wasn't bad: I just knew I didn't have time to do justice to the Turner exhibition ..but was amazed at the connections I found relating to the Church ...

    When you come over .. here's a friend to meet up with ..

    @ Susanne - not as much walking as I should! However I rather like the idea of another trip back to Greenwich quite soon ...

    @ Inger - I thought of you as I was typing this up ...

    Also I thought some people might be able to have seen/see the Mr Selfridge series ...I enjoyed the first series, I haven't caught so many of the ones that are running now .. yet I found visiting my earlier post on Selfridges poignant .. as to early days of posting, and to my mother's time back then ...

    I hadn't heard of St Alfege either - so he's been an interesting find ... but like you glad it was the Danish Vikings!

    @ Julia - you know me well .. quirky is a good word ..

    Thanks everyone .. so lovely to see you .. looks like we really might be getting Spring very soon - it's been glorious weather for some of us .. I'm grateful as to where I live! Cheers Hilary

  14. Thanks for the tour and the history! Sorry your tube stop went missing on you.

  15. My goodness, I learn so much from your posts. I love saxon and medieval history although it's all rathe sanitised now and must have been pretty brutal at the time. What a lovely trip though, even though it wasn't quite as you'd planned!

  16. I read the post about Selfridges. It's very interesting, especially since I watch the show on Masterpiece Theater. We get our best TV shows from England. I'm sure that the reality of Harry Gordon Selfridge is very different from the show.


  17. Sometimes wonderful adventures take place when we least expect them. Sounds like you were destined to see more than you bargained. Excellent post, Hilary. The photos are wonderful and I wish I were there.

  18. Thanks for all the great information! I went to the National Portrait Gallery when I visited London last summer and it was by far my favorite!

  19. @ Dianne - I couldn't believe I'd trundled under the river to Waterloo and then had to return and then walk! Funny though .. by November this year - I should have an embankment tube to hitch a ride to Victoria mainline ...

    @ Val - historically anything must have been much worse than our glorified versions .. but we get a look in at least .. beaten to death by ox bones is a little much even for a saint, I think .. very unpleasant ..

    Not as I planned - but please come back for the Flanders link in my next post!

    @ Janie - I've just reread my post .. where I say Selfridge was 50 when he comes to England .. he's much younger in the Show isn't he ...

    It's interesting to see how many British shows you all tend to watch .. when I was in South Africa I craved overseas British tv .. but Equity (the Union) wouldn't let them be shown in SA, so I understand why you all watch our documentaries etc ..

    @ Joylene - things happen for a reason .. and now Greenwich has been opened up for me .. I have other reasons to go back. The photos are from Wiki or the Church site .. mine weren't too good.

    @ Betty - well you know where I went to see the Portraits - I must definitely explore the National Portrait Gallery more .. that one's easy: it's in the middle of London ..

    Cheers and thanks for commenting and generally adding to the interest .. Hilary

  20. I like Hawksmoor - well discovered!

  21. That church is so beautiful. And I love they have the Viking recreation. What a wonderful time you had prowling around.

  22. Your days out always become such great adventures. It must be wonderful to just pop into London like that - for me it's a long journey (and even longer while Dawlish is closed). I must take the kids up there before they get too old to want to spend time with me!

    No beggars in 984 is quite an achievement. St Alfege sounds like a good egg (oh, and how I'm hoping the pronunciation of his name rhymes with egg!)

  23. You would be the perfect tour guide if I visit England one day. :D

  24. I've never been to London but I want to so much! Your photos make me want to more!

  25. I'd like to see the National Portrait Gallery. I bet there are some amazing works of art there.

  26. Son-in-law works at Canary Wharf. When I was last in that area, it was still a wharf. We were taken to the Portrait Gallery as school kids many, many years ago. St. Alfege sounds quite a priest. The church where I lived in Hoo was dedicated to St. Werburgh, I never looked him up, guess I should do so. Glad you got home safe.

  27. I love when mistakes turn into great things!! :)

    I had to look up 'doolally.'

    It's interesting how things get their names too, isn't it? I love this post!!!

    Happy rest of the week to you.

  28. battered with meat bones...yikes....had never heard his story before...

    what a cool adventure you led us on...enjoy seeing your world through your eyes...

  29. It amazes me sometimes where our journeys - absent minded or not - take us. I had to smile as I read the post, for your personality shines through in such a lovely way. I smiled also because I can see myself getting distracted and embarking on an altered path. So glad though, it turned out well, and that you shared it with us.

    Happy Blogoversary to you!
    Karen :)

  30. Greetings Hilary,

    I'm writing on my human's behalf. I read out your article and I managed to get him to look at the photos.

    Your article has prompted Gary to reminisce. Much of what you mention are places he has frequented.

    When Gary was a little boy, he lived in a grand flat in Blackheath. In the flat above was the brother of James Robertson Justice. Indeed, his brother was just as loud as James.

    Mind the ghostly elevator.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar!

  31. It's good to come across interesting places by chance, isn't it? Gary and I can never resist taking a look inside the churches we see on our travels. It's very rare to find one that wasn't worth making a stop for - especially as quite a few have come up with the brilliant idea of selling tea and cakes when there aren't any services on.

  32. @ Anne - he comes from your part of the world I think. Hawksmoor certainly had great talent ..

    @ Lynn - the Church is a strange mix but with all its connections was a great find. The Viking recreations were in the year 2012 .. but good to see with all the re-enactments going on now ..

    @ Annalisa - getting to London from Cornwall won't be so easy .. but the line will be repaired by the middle of April, so they tell us. Your children will enjoy their time seeing the sights ... before they fly your nest - yes!

    I was struck by the 'no beggars' scenario .. and he was a good egg - I pronounce him with a soft G ... but I'm not sure actually! Next time I'll find out.

    @ Al - if your dragon wings are around .. I'll certainly enjoy travelling and touring with you!

    @ Kate - you'll get to London one day ... something to look forward to ...

    @ Sherry - I shall enjoy my visits to look round at the portraits and history ...

    @ Jo - the hurly burly of London working life ... St Werburghs Church Hoo - see Wikipedia and surprisingly she was a lady! Also similarly search in Google images

    We must have been to places in Oxford and I only remember coming to London for Wimbledon!

    @ Rosey - Thanks - it certainly turned into a fascinating look at the Church and its history ..

    Doolally - fun description resulting from heat boredom .. ghastly thought.

    @ Brian - it does sound a bit rough doesn't it .. poor chap: he was finished off with an axe - as a mercy killing! Doesn't seem to help the telling though really?!

    Thanks so much for enjoying 'my owrld' as such ..

    @ Karen - I relax and switch off .. sometimes 'fatally' ... but this was a great find - now to find another day to see the Turner exhibition ...

    Thank you so much .. for your lovely comment ..

    @ Penny - how lovely that you were able to read out my post to your human, and that he had the picture-book photos to look at!

    How interesting to know that you can remember those days in Blackheath - must have been lovely ... James Robertson Justice was such a character and having just looked at his bio in Wiki - quite extraordinarily talented too. So his brother wasn't cowed by the actor ... I wonder how much you knew of them ...

    Yes mind the ghostly escalator - or did you mean elevator Penny! It'll re-open in November ... by then I'll have probably forgotten there is an Embankment Station!

    @ Patsy - well that sounds an excellent addition to Church duties .. a good cup of tea! I hope to see inside more churches - this particular one was so interesting ..

    Cheers to one and all - we're now back to a sunny day .. lovely early Spring one ... thanks for your comments - Hilary

  33. Beat to death with stones and bones? The guys lucky children didn't make a rhyming song about him that endured for generations.

  34. Wow! Never heard of St. Alfege before today, but he sounds like a worthy man, all right. What a meandering journey you had... And all so you could learn--and then teach us--about Alfege :) Funny how life works sometimes, eh?

    Thanks for stopping over at my blog; your comments brighten up my day :)
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

  35. I strongly believe it's fate when things like that happen :)

  36. You've covered a lot of interesting places. I found the story of St. Alfege Church very intriguing, and look forward to hearing more about it. I never thought of meat bones being used as weapons before. Very frightening.


  37. You, my friend, have such a wonderful adventuresome spirit. Whereas, I would probably have complained about missing my stop, you found something to explore -- St. Alfege Church. I love this about you and it's good characteristic to have:~) You go where the Universe sends you and then share it with us. I'd say the wins were a tie.

    While I know about Wren, I hadn't heard about Nicholas Hawksmoor. I like his last name:~)and the church looks lovely.

    The information about the revamped docks was also fascinating. MudChute seems very aptly named. As I read a lot of historical mysteries taking place in London, I always find your posts about the city helpful as you help me to see some of the places I read. Thanks.

    I'm glad you enjoyed your trip and I know you'll make it to the Exhibition next time:~)

    Hope the weather is beginning to warm where you are.

  38. St. Alfege sounds like a bold servant of the Lord. I like trips down history lane. I have a family connection to Lord Soper, the Methodist minister who preached in Hyde Park even in his 90s. You are blessed to have so many choices for visits.

  39. Thanks for trekking me through time. I'm a believer!

  40. @ Stephen - St Alfege had a very unpleasant death. As you mention a rhyming song - there is a verse in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles that has endured! So thanks for reminding me of that snippet.

    @ Guilie - there are a few St Alfege's .. some friends I was with yesterday asked if I was on about the Whitstable Church, Kent of the same name!

    The church took me on a historical 1,000 year meander .. fascinating though ... great to see you here!

    @ Keith - something took me by the hand (or empty brain cells!!) ... and led me to stop off at the Church .. I'm so pleased I did.

    @ Julie - yes I can rattle and roll when I'm in London .. I've been writing the next post .. and St Alfege and the Church's prominence in royal life is very interesting ..

    A good murder mystery being killed by ox bones - and they're heavy as the previous post noted.

    @ Sara - thanks so much: well I could only complain to myself and say what an idiot I am .. but that wasn't going to help much?!

    So as the saying goes .. open one door and another one will open for you.

    I enjoy the exploration, especially because I can write about it .. and in the process increase my learning. It's lovely having an appreciative audience - thank you one and all.

    I guess I could write about so many people too - Hawksmoor being one, John Evelyn the diarist, who lived in the area; also various areas: Deptform/Greenwich .. so much going on 800 - 500 years ago before the westerly part of London was opened up.

    Opening your eyes to old London through your historical mysteries must be so interesting, and I'm glad I add a little to your visualisation of the stories.

    I'm probably going to go to the Exhibition tomorrow .. and it is lovely here, though warmer in London.

    @ Terra - Alfege came from an illustrious family and early on embarked on a life of great wisdom and humility ... as you say "a bold servant of the Lord". I'm so glad you enjoyed this posting.

    Lord Soper was a principled man .. and I hope you can find out more about him - he was a character of the 20th century.

    @ Spacerguy - thanks so much .. I'm glad you enjoyed the trek through time ..

    Cheers to you all - I just love the fact that you're all so interested .. wonderful! Thanks - Hilary

  41. What a wonderful adventure you had! What a wonderful word "doolally" is! I've never heard it but totally understand what it means because of how you used it. I read a book recently that seems to be based on your new found St. Alfege. Or, at least the saint in the novel did the same thing of giving himself over to the vikings in hopes of his people being left alone. I'm going to check on it now that you have me curious. Thanks for dropping by my blog. I always love hearing from you.

  42. Sounds like you had a great time and a wonderful adventure. Love living vicariously through you!


  43. Hi Hilary, The Portrait Gallery looks wonderful, would love to visit that myself. I'll look forward to hearing more about the Alfrege church. Enjoy reading about your travels and explorations so much.

  44. Hilary, I looked up the saint that I read about and it was St. Cuthbert! His seems to be an interesting story as well...

  45. @ Lisa - I had to check I was using doolally correctly .. but it is a wonderful word isn't it.

    I see you've checked re your book and it's on St Cuthbert .. I visited Durham Cathedral last year and ashamedly I still have to write St Cuthbert's story .. I wrote two conglomerate posts on my time in Durham, but not St Cuthbert's journey.

    I haven't put all of St Alfege's story into my next post .. it's more about the Church ... so I could probably combine the stories on St Cuthbert and St Alfege at some stage - now after the A-Z.

    St Cuthbert came from Scotland and lived in the north of England .. St Alfege came from the west of England before moving east in his rise to Archbishop of Canterbury. But 'similar' stories ..

    @ Nas - thanks it was a fun and different day ..

    @ Scarlett - how lovely to see you .. and you would love, love, love the Portrait Gallery ... just up your artistic street ...

    Thanks re my next post .. it's coming up ...

    Cheers to you and thanks so much for visiting and commenting - Hilary

  46. Hi Hilary! Your trips to London are always so interesting. I love the name - Isle of Dogs. And I set a story in the modern Canary Wharf. I once stayed at Blackheath so did a bit of tripping around the area. Such fun.


  47. Canary warf is a place I started to know very well. It was the departure point for our roundtrip trough the UK, and then I returned there, because I took the wrong bus ! I have seen a Turner exhibition, but it was in a museum in London, can't remember the name right now.

  48. Just to let you know we really enjoyed Eastbourne and the exhibition at the Redoubt, thanks for recommending it, x

  49. @ Denise - it's funny what we can create and get out of a few mistakes .. the names in the East End/ Greenwich area are so interesting.

    I'd love to read your story set in Canary Wharf .. it's so new, yet the old lingers on and appears occasionally ...

    Blackheath is a lovely area - I really must take a trip out there ..

    @ Gattina - that's good you know Canary Wharf .. and oh so easy to take the wrong bus - I do that too.

    Turner - there've been a few exhibitions including his work, but this one is about his maritime paintings .. so I'd like to see it ..

    @ Akelamalu - thanks .. I popped over to your first post and am so pleased the Redoubt exhibition was interesting .. you'll probably write about it before I get to see it.

    Cheers to the three of you - Hilary

  50. We can experience some of the most delightful places and people when we get off at a different or "wrong" stop, so to speak. Thanks for taking us along with you. You must have been ready to put your feet up and sip a cup of tea by the time you returned home.

  51. Hi Susan .. this was a real unexpected treat - I'd never expected to encounter quite so much history.

    I had tea before the Portrait Gallery Tour - I was in sore need of that reviving cuppa ... when I got home I was ready for bed!

    But it was such a fun day .. cheers Hilary

  52. Hi Hilary
    Your post are always so informative. I must confess, I don't like research too much. But when story calls for it I do it. I do love history, so how I don't like research I don't know.

    In my short story which takes place in Charlemagne's time I had several conflicting searches. One of my favorite T.v. shows at the moment is on the History Channel called Vikings. In the last episode I learned something I didn't know even after all my research. Maybe that's why I get frustrated with research.

  53. What adventures you have! I'm catching up after a little blog holiday (very busy on a big project)