Last Monday was the first real big step forward in the restoration of normal life in the U.K. with many of the non-essential opening for the first time in months. Of course I couldn’t imagine anything worse than going in a shop to buy junk but in my own way I had my own big opening as the church I had been walking by every day for a month or so was finally open for business.
You might remember I wrote about the previous and now ruined St Johns Church at Stanmore, well this is the successor.
On 16th July, 1850, the Bishop of Salisbury (in the absence of the Bishop of London) consecrated the present church. Colonel Hamilton Tovey Tennent, who lived at Pynnacles, a large house in Green Lane in Stanmore (,which was burnt down in 1930) gave the field upon which it was built. The Earl of Aberdeen laid the foundation stone in the presence of Queen Adelaide. This was the last public appearance of the Queen Dowager, who was then living at Bentley Priory.
The new church cost £7,855 0s. 3d which was quite a tidy sum of money in those days; no wonder they were keen to recoup some costs by starting the demolition of the previous church.
I half expected the church to be open but wasn’t certain; however I walk right by one of the great doors as I go by the grave of W.S Gilbert and sit on the nearby bench to have a drink every morning. The doors were wide open and I gingerly poked my head through the door both not knowing what to expect and finding it a great novelty to go inside any building that I don’t actually live in!
Sadly due to restrictions of movement, it wasn’t possible to have my usual nose around that I normally do but I still sat there for 15 minutes in one of the designated pews at the front.
My photos which i took are a little bit blurry but considering I took them on my old phone from the 1990’s, I don’t think they came out too badly. I will have to return one day with my iPad.
One of the nice things about this church is that the bells ring out regularly so you can tell what time it is in an old-world sort of way; particularly useful when some one stole your watch.
Whilst I was on my walk I met a number of interesting people which is one of the things I like about walking. I remember back in 1997 when I was doing my Masters, I had to do an hours presentation on one particular sentence in a book by the French-Algerian historian, Jacques Berque.
Of course one had to read the whole book or at least until the sentence in question to be able to talk freely and correctly on the subject. I always remember finding it on something like page 574…. that was a long day 🙂
He spent much of his career covering the history and politics of the Maghreb or North Africa. The sentence in question was something along the lines of “Once the Fellahin have ridden in the back of a truck, they’d never go back to walking“. The meaning behind it was once the Fellahin (peasants) had been given a lift on the truck for 20 minutes, how could they ever go back to walking for hours and not aspire for eventual independence.
I often think about this sentence, not just because it dominated my life so completely for a week or so but I actually much prefer walking than going by car; perhaps it is easier to give up a vehicle if you actually have the chance of driving one but I probably drive less than 5 journeys a year outside of mostly using public transport for work.
I just don’t get the addiction to driving and think if you’re not prepared to walk an hour to see or get something then it’s probably not worth doing in the first place… but then I’m a pretty chilled out sort of person!
There was one lady walking with her husband wearing plastic gloves; I’m presuming to open up farm gates and the like but it did look very much like she was waiting to pick up after her husband had gone to the toilet in the woods!
There was also a very cute 2-3 year old girl. A little black girl with ‘Princess’ emblazoned on her top. She was a very smiley little thing and headed towards me as we approached from opposite directions. I said “Hello Princess” to her which made her giggle and I think she wanted to be friends. She was no doubt glad to know that I recognised her regal status!
Twice on my walk I met a vicar but not of the church I ended up visiting. On the second occasion we ended up having a bit of a chat; it turns out his church is a particularly special local church where the musician Handel used to play the organ. Before I even finished asking the question, I was told that of course they would open up for me one day.
This particular church is another 1.5 miles away which is taking my walk into half-marathon territory but the I find a spare morning, I shall definitely go there and take something more modern than my phone to take photographs.