London, Brooke Street, EC1 – St Alban the Martyr

A day in London, with breakfast on East Midlands Trains.

For my Crich project on “The Carriage of Parcels and Mail by Tram” I needed a few hours in the Archives of the National Postal Museum – transport of postmen and women on the trams in Glasgow and Portsmouth, mail bags in Mansfield and Kettering, and letter boxes on the trams in Coventry. I then visited their museum – website – and had a ride on Rail Mail. I had visited this when it was still in operation, and was prepared to be a bit sniffy about it as a visitor experience, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I also remembered a trip on a Scottish Postbus – what a shame that useful piece of customer service and joined up public sector thinking has now been consigned to history.

It was starting to rain as I left Mail Rail, but I went for a wander, and found the church of St Alban the Martyr on Brooke Street, EC1. They have a website, but it makes no mention of their huge building (so most of the info here is from Wikipedia (you have been warned)). The sign in the porch describes them as a “world famous Anglo Catholic Church” (and modest with it!!). It was open, empty, but felt welcoming. I walked past this statue “Jesus being risen from the dead” by Hans Feibusch, 1985. and into the porch.

The church was founded on land given by William Henry, 2nd Baron Leigh, built with funds from John Hubbard, 1st Baron Addington, and designed by William Butterfield. It was built between 1861 and 1862. The first priest was Alexander Mackonochie who introduced a daily Mass, with Gregorian chant and lots of ritual. It was the first Anglican church to hold the three-hour devotion on Good Friday. Mackonochie and his colleagues no doubt had a deep pastoral ministry, caring for the people of their parish – and they had to cope with opposition from so many parts of the wider Church (nothing changes).

The church was burned out during the Blitz, and was restored 1959-61, by Adrian Gilbert Scott (brother of Giles Gilbert Scott of Cambridge University Library fame). The mural on the east wall are striking – they too are by Hans Feibusch. Even in a dark church, the colours and the people reached out to me. This is a mural that aids my prayers.

Hans Feibusch (1898-1998) was a German painter and sculptor of Jewish heritage who lived and worked in Britain from 1933. He was born in Frankfurt, studied in Munich, Berlin and Paris, then emigrated in 1933 due to the Nazi rise to power. He was confirmed into the Church of England in 1965, and was a regular worshipper in this church. In his latter years he returned to his Jewish faith, and is buried at Golders Green Jewish Cemetery. Much of his work is at Pallant House in Chichester – another place to add to the list. Look at the blog. Most of his murals are in churches in Chichester diocese, the nearest to home in Derby is one in Wellingborough. He also painted the Stations of the Cross – again in the mid 1960s. I didn’t photo them all – meditate on these five.

A very high font, a very high door, some lovely lettering, marble cherub – and the notice I want.

It was a bit too wet to walk much further, so I did some train chasing. Farringdon to Croydon, then a ride on the tram and the Underground, before my evening train to Derby. Never go home the easy way!

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