London – St Clement Eastcheap

London church number 2 was St Clement, Eastcheap – it’s in Clement’s Lane, EC4N 7AE. There is a fascinating blog. We found that the building is occupied by the offices of the Amos Trust – website – and Glad’s House – website. Child Rescue Nepal – website – tells me there are 100,000 child slaves in that country. I have to say I don’t think I’d heard of any of those organisations, and they welcomed us into the church and let us explore.

It was an C11 church, dedicated to the third Bishop of Rome. He was martyred by being chucked into the sea with an anchor tied round his neck – so he is the patron saint of sailors. In those days it was known as the church of St Clement Candlewickstrate, the old name for Cannon Street. It was one of the first churches to be destroyed in the Great Fire of London, as Pudding Lane is just round the corner.

Wren rebuilt the church between 1637 and 1687, but London’s City Churches by Stephen Millar (Metro publications, 2013) says it is “not one of his most memorable designs.” It has simple brass plaques that mean there is no need for a guidebook.

William Butterfield did two drastic Victorian restorations in 1872 and 1889. Why two restorations? Wasn’t he happy with number 1?

The pulpit is good fun, and I like the windows above them. The organ was made by Renatus Harris, and Edward Purcell, son of Henry the composer, was organist here. The font seems a bit odd in the middle of an office, but I am glad the building is being well-used.

The reredos was dismantled by Butterfield, and re-assembled by Sir Ninian Comper. The Key of Return is an art work by Deborah Mullins. It is based on the key above the entrance to Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. The names of over 520 Palestinian villages are stencilled, painted, appliqued and embroidered on this piece as a tribue to all those forced from their homes as the state of Israel came into being. 3/4 million people became refugees during that time, a figure which has now swelled to 6 million in the last 70 years. Deborah comments that “For ensuing generations, one of the only tangible objects connecting their past homes to their present lives is the key to their door. There may no longer be a village, a house, a door, or even a keyhole which will fit that key, but the key itself is safely preserved – around the neck, or carefully wrapped and stored.” I don’t pretend to understand the rights and wrongs of the situation, but I shouldn’t ignore it.

A Wren church makes you ponder.



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