Wednesday, 4 December 2019

One thing, then another.

London really is full of surprises.  I never fail to marvel at how often I go out to do one thing, and end up doing something else as well.  For instance, we went out last week with our friend Annette to see an art show about "London through the eyes of artists."  The show was at the Guildhall art gallery, in the heart of the oldest bit of London. The Guildhall was built between 1411 to 1999 in (as you'd guess) many different styles...plus there's part of a 2,000 year old Roman amphitheatre in the basement.


The paintings  in the show spanned four hundred years or so, and the one below particularly appealed to me. It seems that around 1600 a legal clerk commissioned a theatrical scenery painter to show how Old St. Paul's Cathedral would look if it was restored. It was at the time very neglected - in fact, its spire had collapsed - and his set of pictures included "before" pictures and the hoped-for "after" pictures. Here's an "after" picture of the interior. Do you notice a dog being chased out of the church in the bottom right?


This exterior "after" picture shows how very different Old St. Pauls looked from the current one, even without the beautiful golden angels flying all around it.    


It is just as well perhaps that the repairs don't seem to have been done, since it would have been very expensive - because, sadly, Old St Pauls was burned down in the Great Fire of London of 1666.   

After viewing the show, we thought we'd look at some of the Guildhall's permanent art collection, so off we went went in search of it.  We quickly found ourselves before a large arched doorway, which led into a series of grand rooms, some of them very large. These were crowded with stalls selling all kinds of unexpected things.  After a while, we realised we'd stumbled upon a bazaar raising funds for the work of the Red Cross.  


And I do mean "grand" rooms. The statues decorating the walls were larger than life sized, if you notice.    It was not at first immediately obvious that many of the stalls were run by livery companies, but they were. Livery companies are a bit like medieval trade unions,  but now they play a mainly networking and ceremonial role in City life. Many are incredibly wealthy after centuries of endowment and land purchase, and they play an important part in maintaining many of the beautiful old churches and chapels in the City.  (They also do other charitable work. For example, the Dyers Company supports S and Little A's junior school, which is in an area once traditionally associated with leatherwork and dyeing. ) 

The Blacksmiths were selling splendid ironwork of all types, the Masons had stone carvings which I guess you could buy and build into your house -  I'm sure they were open to commissions too. Here are a couple of stallholders in Red Cross aprons and guild regalia. The Gardeners had a wonderful display of extremely reasonably priced and beautiful plants lining a long Gothic corridor. 


The Launderers Company were in what looked some kind of a vestry. One of them told me that some of their members supplied them with vast quantities of hotel quality duvet covers and towels so they could sell them at knock down prices and raise money at the bazaar. 


This gentleman below was MC-ing and his voice would appear out of nowhere over several of the vast rooms. T. reckons the collar and cuffs must have been made by the Lacemakers' Company, except that I don't think there is one, since lace was generally made at home by women.  


Annette bought some books and a gourmet Christmas pudding and we went down a long stone staircase decorated entirely with fir boughs and coloured lights, and ended up in one of the Crypts. These are often amazingly decorated for functions (see this site http://www.guildhall.cityoflondon.gov.uk/east-west-crypts) but in the past were sometimes used to confine people that the authorities didn't like.   On the occasion of our visit, the crypt housed a pop up cafe called the Clink (an old name for a jail, based on the noise the jailers made when they walked around with their bunches of keys). One of the stalls there was giving away free glasses of excellent wine, so we ended up pretty happy. 


So eventually we peeled ourselves away from the crypt and went off to have a late lunch - it was nearly 2 PM - and noticed that the lights were on in St. Lawrence Jewry church, which stands nearby. So in we went and found we were at the end of a wonderful free organ concert. Several city churches have free organ concerts weekly. St. Lawrence is  every Tuesday at 1 PM.   So we decided to come back and hear one of the organ concerts the following Tuesday. 

And that's what we did  yesterday.  This is a picture of the main organ - in fact, it has two cases, the big one in the main church, and a smaller one in a side chapel, and they can be played either together or separately. I'd love to hear them both played together.  


And since it is connected with the Guildhall, and those livery companies, there's a stand for the ceremonial mace of the Lord Mayor of  London.  The aldermen sit behind him (or her) in those pews. 


At the concert I heard for the first time some work by the composer Max Reger - a Chorale Fantasia. I was very impressed. If you want to hear it, Youtube has a good performance, although I have to say that however well performed it is, it's not really as good as hearing it on a real organ. 


After the concert yesterday, we noticed the main door of the Guildhall was open. There was no particular event on, so we thought we'd drop in to see what it looked like without all the stalls, or the cafe, or anything.   I'm not sure we were really supposed to be there, but it was a very interesting little walk, and this time we managed to take some photos of the stained glass windows in the crypt which showed the arms of some of the livery companies.  This, below,  for the Spectacle Makers, was my favourite. Each of the windows is full of imagery, but I particularly liked the butterfly with the "eyes" on its wings, and all the pairs of old fashioned spectacles.


Here, the Air Pilots and Navigators are one of the more modern companies. 


And I did like the Farriers - so many different types of horses to be seen. 


I'd have liked the chance to buy a book with pictures of all the windows, and explanations, but there wasn't one in the little shop by the gallery. 

 A few days ago we also took the chance to go to an exhibition called "Hidden London" - it's about the abandoned and disused tube stations of London.  To get to Covent Garden, where the museum is, we cycled through Regents Park and were waylaid there, too. The weeping willows are often the last trees to shed their leaves and they did make a wonderful sight.  


The Hidden London exhibition is due to close in January, and is worth catching if you can. It's exceptionally lively and theatrical for a small exhibition and you feel almost as if you really are going underground into a warren of abandoned or re-purposed stations. Old tube stations have been used for more things than I ever knew, from wartime headquarters to hydroponic salad factories!  

One of the exhibits in the show was the London tube map with ONLY the disused stations marked.   


The show was put on to launch the museum's own tours of disused stations in real life, which sound very good, and something I'd like to try before too long. I have to say I am a bit of a sucker for old railway stations. 

Now that December has started, I really have to get moving on my Christmas preparations. Somehow they always catch me by surprise. Have you started your preparations yet?

51 comments:

  1. The weeping willows are indeed a wonderful sight, entirely enhanced I might add by CANADA Geese swimming in the pond!

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    1. Yes indeed! I believe that many Canada geese that live in the UK tend to be permanent residents, although some do turn up from Canada at this time of year, I am told!

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  2. Beautiful crypt, and photos. A lovely place to visit, and during the holidays, the organs must sound heavenly.

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  3. Beautiful photos. I also love the pond with the Weeping Willows.
    Looks like a lovely exhibition, The Hidden London. Too bad it is closing.
    The stained glass windows in this charming church are stunning.
    Happy December. Thelma.

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  4. What a wonderful ramble of a blog, commencing with paintings in a cathedral, a dos e doe through a room of artists, a stop for an organ serenade, and more and sundry and such, right to an empty tube station. My oh my.

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  5. A crypt/former jail that serves wine sounds like a place that I would love to visit. The stained glass windows are glorious..
    Your final picture of the geese is just so beautiful.

    Good post, Jenny.

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    1. I have to confess that picture was taken of T. We both took a lot but I liked his the best!

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  6. Another adventure! I keep the holidays fairly low-key, two Hanukkah dinners, small gifts and no black Friday nonsense. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

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    1. thanks, e. I don't like over the top holidays either. Enjoy your Hanukkah.

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  7. Hello Jenny, I remember when I was in London, a train I frequently took went past a disused station, and you could dimly see the decorated tiles and World War II era posters. I would love to explore Guildhall, but I doubt that I will have as many lucky chances as you did--a bazaar and a private look-see.
    --Jim

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    1. I would have liked that. Do you remember which station it was? But now you mention it, I have also a very dim memory of seeing something similar. I once went to a disused station at the Alexandra Palace, which had wartime posters, but that was on a tour with the Victorian Society, and I am pretty sure that like you, I glimpsed the old stuff briefly out of the windows.

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  8. I love everything about this post, Jenny! The Guildhall, bazar, crypt, church, organ concert, park, or museum of disused tube stations - I would have gladly come along to any of it.
    I know I say this every time you write about London, that I really should try and fit in a visit, since my last trip to London was almost 13 years ago. I just don't know when and how!
    As for Christmas preparations, I still have my cards to write and parcels to wrap and take to the post office.

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    1. I'm glad you like the post. If you ever do come to London, please let me know!

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  9. I never heard of the Guildhall, but the building is beautiful and impressive - and so is that painting by the theatrical scenery painter. I would have never noticed the dog being chased if you didn't mention it. Those stained glass windows are spectacular!

    I'm familiar with Max Reger's music but haven't heard the Chorale Fantasia. Thanks for posting it.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Jon. I shall certainly look out for more of Reger's organ music and hope I like it as much as the Fantasia.

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  10. I enjoyed looking at and reading this post. My husband is a Liveryman but belongs to a relatively young company compared to the medieval ones that you mentioned. He belongs to the Company of Engineers. Along with membership comes Freedom of the City of London, which enables you to be hung with a silk rope and walk your sheep across London Bridge.

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    1. That must be so interesting - not so much driving your sheep over the bridge (although of course ....!!!) but wonderful to go to dinners or meetings in such a place. I remember years ago I used to go to the Christmas bash at Grays Inn and it hardly mattered what the food was like, the surroundings were so interesting.

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  11. Have I started my Christmas preparations yet?
    Hahahahaha!
    I don't even know where to begin to comment on your beautiful pictures. We live in such different worlds and you remind me that the world is so much bigger than my tiny corner of it. Thank you.

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  12. A travel writer does not have to travel very far when she lives in (or near?) London.

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    1. London's always changing so it really is full of surprises even if you know it well.

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  13. I love being a small part of your adventures! :)

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    1. Thank you Rita! I like to have you coming along with me

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  14. Quite amazing what you can see in London. I have never been to any of those places but I hav evisted some very interesting churches lately

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    1. Looking at English churches is one of my favourite things. St. Lawrence Jewry has an interesting little exhibition in it about when it was burned down. It included the vellum birth register which had not burned but shrunk to about half its original size. I had never seen such a thing in a church.

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  15. Another one of your very interesting posts to be enjoyed by us, Jenny. Thanks for taking us along with you. Wonderful photos...terrific. Thank you. :)

    I'll be flying very low beneath the radar over Christmas. I'll be spending it very quietly...just me and my two furry mates.

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    1. And a very nice thing about Christmas in your part of the world is that you can sit in the sunshine in a swimsuit!!

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  16. We can understand the architecture deep by your excellent explanation.

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  17. One good thing about London, if you can get past the tourists, is the number of interesting buildings dating back years.
    If only more were open when you pass!
    Good tour again, good pictures as always.
    I like to try and imagine what a church was like in past times, no pews, straw on floor, the people in their ranks etc.
    A bit less gleaming than today I think.

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    1. And full of dogs! Going around country churches, I find that a surprising number had the spire collapse or the roof fall in so it might have been a rather dangerous business at times!

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  18. This is just the most wonderful post. It makes me realize I must put a visit to the Guildhall on the 2020 schedule, although I doubt I'd be so lucky as to find such an interesting market being held there. A mixed bag, I think -- do you see the stalls or all the beauty on the walls and room? I think you were wise to return for the concert and then get to take a look and see both ways. The musical piece is quite stunning. I can imagine it was quite impressive. And I love that stained glass. The transport museum exhibit particularly interests me, too. I love that kind of thing. What a wonderful look at two spots that really deserve some attention! Makes me miss London all the more!

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    1. The Guildhall gallery is pretty well always open but the big rooms are not usually accessible unless you're attending an event there, I think. At least, we wondered although nobody actually stopped us! We felt really lucky to have the chance to attend such a big event which used pretty well all of the closed off area. There's also a library and all kinds of other stuff there - I haven't really explored it as a whole before. London Transport museum is always fun.

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  19. An interesting post to read and beautiful photographs...
    I also love the pond with the Weeping Willows, so beautiful.

    All the best Jan

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  20. London an its environs would take years to explore thoroughly, and by then you'd have to start over, so much would have changed and grown. If i ever get the chance to go back, i will.

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    1. Yes, it changes all the time, which is part of what I like about living here - at least so long as the change is not too fast and destructive.

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  21. I love all the windows, they are stunning. You made me grin about the free wine.

    I have got the Christmas tree out of the loft. It's standing in the hall naked. I need to write all the Christmas cards, a job I hate!

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  22. The Guildhall is another place I never got round to visiting. It looks very spectacular. The stained glass windows are wonderful, also the Before and After paintings of Old St Pauls.

    The Hidden London exhibition looks good, but I don't think I'll fly over to see it! I once asked if I could have a ride on the old underground Post Office railway, but they said no. Spoilsports!

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    1. Ah, you can ride on it now, though! they have opened it as a little museum. I haven't been yet....

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  23. The Guildhall is a beautiful building. I do love a good bazaar.

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  24. Looking at the Old St. Pauls picture I see it's very different, Jenny. I love the new one :-)
    I do also love listening to the Organ music, especially for free. The last time I've heard such concert was in Rome, good remembrances.
    I put the museum exhibition of Hidden London in my wish list.
    Happy December!

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    1. Dear Jenny,
      I WISH YOU AND YOURS
      A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS
      FULL OF JOY AND HAPPINESS
      BLESSINGS,
      KISSES,
      HUGS

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    2. Thank you Nadezda! and the same to you!!!!

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  25. I loved the dog being chased out of the church in that one painting, not because I'm in favor of cruelty to animals or anything like that, but because it's such a non-solemn detail in an otherwise solemn picture.

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    1. I always think those little human touches bring the past to life. Happy Christmas to you Kirk.

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  26. Dear Jenny - Free organ concert with such a magnificent pipe organ at such a beautiful chapel is perfectly appealing. My latest post has something to do with the image of the golden threads of weeping willows and waterfowl on the golden ripples, though the landscape is different. Wish you and your family a fabulous Christmas and a peaceful, healthy New Year.

    Yoko

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    1. Thank you Yoko, and I wish you and your family a calm, kind and beautiful holiday season!

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  27. Really big cities can be explored endlessly.

    That second-to-last photo of the Canada geese and the willows over the water is stunning.

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    1. And the nice thing about really big cities is that the details are always changing, so there's always something new even if you know it well.

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  28. What a great post Jenny, and sorry I am a late visitor. I was amazed to hear London has disused tube stations - I tend to see them all as a modern invention. Brisbane does not even have an underground, but are working on one station some time soon! There is always something else I want to see in London: the Guildhall, what a magnificent place, and the stained glass is gorgeous. And then you found St Lawrence's and the organ, which looks very inviting too. Guess we have to go back to London again...
    Merry Christmas Jenny, hope you have a great one.

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    1. Thank you Patricia. I hope you do make it back to London when there is a chance to see some of these fantastic rooms opened up to the public!

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  29. I’m late here too, but what a wonderful post, Jenny! I was fascinated to learn about old St. Paul’s and those before and after paintings. I’d also have loved to see the disused tune station exhibition. Thank you again for this ‘learnsome’ and interesting post!

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