The Church with a Millennium of history ... as the Guide Book says “since 1012 when St Alfege witnessed to his faith and justice for the poor; there has been a church on this site in Greenwich”. I described the manner of his death in my previous post ...
The manor of Greenwich had been under the protection of the Benedictine St Peter’s Abbey, Ghent in Flanders (Belgium) since 918 and was under the personal protection of Pope Eugenius III in 1150.
Nothing is known of that early church, while the only records of the second church, built in the early 13th century, are illustrations or panoramas of the outside from the 16th and 17th centuries.
The rectors appointed from Flanders were never acceptable to the people of Greenwich, who persuaded Edward III (1312 – 1377) to take over the manor in 1317.
So began St Alfege Church’s pivotal position in the influence of persons associated with Greenwich, and from where the populace had a close view of the royal power struggles taking place at Greenwich Palace.
The ‘good Duke Humphrey’ patron of the arts and founder of the Bodleian Library, Oxford was murdered in Greenwich in 1447. Humphrey of Lancaster, Duke of Gloucester and Earl of Pembroke (1390 – 1447) was “son, brother and uncle of Kings”, being the 4th and youngest son of King Henry IV of England.
The church acted as a proxy Chapel Royal when Henry VIII was baptised in 1491. The Chapel Royal falls under the Ecclesiastical Household of the monarch ... i.e. it serves the spiritual needs of the Sovereign.
|Interior looking towards the organ; the pulpit top
can be seen, as I took the photo from the gallery
Samuel Pepys (1633 – 1703) noted in his diary in 1665 “by coach to Greenwich Church, where a good sermon, a fine church and a great company of handsome women” ... well now we know – he liked his women!
John Evelyn (1620 – 1706), the diarist, lived at Sayes Court nearby and commented that “at the conclusion of the church service, there was a French sermon preached after the use of the English Liturgy translated into French, to a congregation of about 100 French refugees” – I’m not sure why the French refugees were there, my history digs have failed me here.
|Aerial view from Queen's House at front,
looking through the 'courts' of the old
Royal Naval College towards the
Isle of Dogs
Because of its proximity to the Royal Palace, the Old Royal Naval Hospital and the dockyards the thriving Greenwich-Deptford-Rotherhithe-Woolwich towns housed a diverse agglomeration of peoples ...
... sailors, watermen (the ‘taxis of the day), royal servants, shipbuilders, fishermen, travellers, trades folk, then more substantial houses were occupied by Ambassadors to the Court, natural philosophers, scientists, artists and artisans ... remember this was the centre of the Royal Court and government ... as the spread of London westwards really only took off in the 1700s.
The churches were refuges, places for worship, meeting houses and St Alfege’s played a prominent role in the lives of the Royals, the nobility and the master craftsmen to the trades’ people ...
|St Alfege (his day is 19th April)
Francis Spear, in the early 1950s,
designed a number of new windows for
the ones that were destroyed in the War
So when the act of God happened and the roof caved in during a storm in November 1710, the parishioners petitioned Parliament and were granted funds by the Commissioners, under the Fifty New Churches Act 1710: the government’s opportunity to create monuments to themselves and ...
... to Queen Anne, who reigned 1702 to 1707, and then, after the Union of England and Scotland in 1707, continued to reign as Queen of Great Britain, until she died in 1714.
Famous people who worked on the new church included:
|A partial glimpse of the Sanctuary Altar,
together with one of the Benefaction Boards
Sir Nicholas Hawksmoor, a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren and Clerk of the Works at Greenwich Hospital for 40 years, was given the architectural commission.
Hawksmoor (1661 – 1736) designed most of the 11 churches that came to be built to under the Act ... whose purpose was to serve the rapidly growing population of London.
Hawksmoor’s elaborate columns and cornices of the Sanctuary Altar are original and thankfully escaped the bombing in 1941.
The restored ‘trompe de l’oeil’ paintings in the Sanctuary are by Sir James Thornhill (1675 – 1734), better known for the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College and the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Grinling Gibbons (1648 – 1721), the sculptor and wood carver, who became known as the “King’s Carver” ... he designed the original pulpit before WWII bombing destroyed a great deal of it ... but the restoration followed the original in shape, although because of lack of funds the design is much simpler.
There are two magnificent Benefaction Boards put into the second church in 1702, and afterwards into Hawksmoor’s church, which then survived the bombing as they were previously situated in the south staircase lobby – now they reside on either side of the Altar Sanctuary.
Famous people particularly associated with St Alfege’s include
Thomas Tallis (1505 - 1585), the Composer, whose influence was invaluable to the development and flowering of the golden age of Tudor Music under Elizabeth I.
For organ buffs: When the roof collapsed the 1552 organ was saved ... the remaining part of that console is displayed – it has a curious arrangement of reverse colour keys. Some keys are split to achieve sharps and Middle D is noticeably more worn than the more usual Middle C.
Experts believe that the middle keyboard is almost certainly from Tudor times and would have been played by Tallis, and the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth while they lived at Greenwich Palace.
|Photo of the music score displayed
Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, after whom the ill-fated ship the Mary Rose is named.
The Revd. John Flamsteed (1646 – 1719), the first Astronomer Royal who was instrumental in persuading Charles II to construct an observatory at Greenwich.
General James Wolfe (1727 – 1759) - victorious soldier who died during the Battle at Quebec. His body was brought back to England and is buried in the vault beneath the Church.
|General James Wolfe's - glass
panel displayed on window sill
Henry Kelsey (1667 – 1724) explorer. He was apprenticed to the Hudson’s Bay Company and in 1690-91 made a trip across the Canadian Plains being one of the first Europeans to do so .
Sir John Julius Angerstein (1753 – 1823) was born in St Petersburg, emigrated to London at 15, became a Lloyd’s underwriter at 21. He was the main inspiration behind Lloyd’s, and was financial adviser to Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger.
He was a distinguished patron of the arts and his collection of paintings formed the core of the National (Art) Gallery.
|Boston Tea Party - history of North America -
1789 - Engraving Plate, E Newberry
see Wiki page
Samuel Enderby (1755 – 1829) merchant. He was a member of a Greenwich trading family which dealt in tea (their ships were the focus of the Boston Tea Party), whale oil and convicts. The family financed three expeditions to Antarctica – hence the naming of Enderby Land.
General Sir Charles Gordon (1833 – 1885) – the grandson of Samuel Enderby; the General has a rich history.
Sir George Biddell Airy (1801 – 1885) Astronomer. During his time as Astronomer Royal and with his researches he defined the Greenwich Meridian, which was internationally recognised in 1884.
In the south aisle is Everyone’s Chapel for World Peace ... particularly for the children. At times during the year the altar frontals made by the children of the church are used, and give a unique perspective on life and World Peace.
This is particularly appropriate for what was a main hub of activity around the ‘highway’ of the River Thames and the Greenwich Court in those early times ... where many diverse peoples came from different parts of the world, and where we now continue to celebrate enormous diversity in this small country of ours.
On the altar is a Coventry Cross, also known as a Cross of Nails. After Coventry Cathedral was blitz bombed in 1940, a handful of 14th century hand-forged nails lay in the charred ruins.
Three of these medieval nails were used to form a cross and since then Coventry crosses have been presented to many churches and centres in the world as a symbol of peace and reconciliation.
Alfege’s last days were captured poetically and poignantly in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, apparently one of the very few pieces of verse appearing in them:
Captive then was
He that once
Was head of all England,
There could be seen
Great joy was seen,
In the city from which
And bliss before God
And bliss before the World
From Everyone’s Chapel for World Peace, the words:
Lord, Grant Us Peace
|Henry Kelsey was probably the
first European to see buffalo
Illustration by Charles William
Jefferys (1869 - 1961)
I would like to credit the following for much of the information in this post:
The Guide Book to The Parish Church of St Alfege
The St Alfege Trail: a riverside walk and cycle route from Southwark Cathedral through a thousand years of history (a pamphlet produced for the Millennium of St Alfege 1012 – 2012)
Osbern’s Life of Alfege by Frances Shaw, a professor of Classics at Oxford University, who now teaches Latin, Greek and Philosophy in nearby Dulwich.
(This translation from the Latin now makes Alfege’s life accessible to modern readers, while retaining the colour of Osbern’s distinctive style). Osbern (c 1050 –c 1090) was a Benedictine monk, biographer and musician, precentor of Christ Church Canterbury.
This is a rather long post, but I wanted to leave in some detail and not curtail it too much ... a millennium of history in one post is a little squeezed – this is a wonderful place if you can get to visit.
|In the 19th C Porthcurno, west Cornwall
was connected to the rest of the
world by submarine cables
I then found a very interesting article via the Atlantic Cable Company that throws a lot of light on the Enderby family, the docks, industrial activity and various engineering developments over three hundred years.
What caught my eye was the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Cornwall connection from where many of the world’s telegraph cables were manufactured and laid – hence the note here.
History of the Atlantic Cable from Porthcurno, West Cornwall and its connection with Enderby Wharf ..
|I am once again joining in with the
A-Z 2014 Blogging Challenge
Sign up list is here
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