Wednesday 19 April 2017

Seeing Southwark Cathedral

At last I have material with which to write up a report of a recent jolly which we managed to shoe horn in between work and running commitments. Huzzah!

We've been a-wandering along the South Bank and nosing around the Square Mile in our glorious Capital. Having snouted around prior to our visit to see what else was in the area beyond the walk our son had paid for [Xmas pressie], my eye alighted upon Southwark Cathedral...a far quieter "attraction" than either St Paul's or Westminster. Entry is by donation a big fat tick from me then!

Having served the majority of its time as a parish church, it only gained cathedral status in 1905. It's seen periods of neglect and with the Victorian zeal for improvement [call that by and large sanitised and dull] it's not a building with the greatest impact. Mr GBT commented that the vaulted ceiling is more similar than it should be to the Victorian sewers running below the London streets!

Thankfully though it has retained many features which redeem it. These are saved medieval roof bosses. I'm wondering if the chap with the funky hairdo and beard bottom right hand corner is a depiction of Moses

Apparently the smiley face at the top is the devil snacking on Judas. I simply couldn't fathom it at first, but realising that you're looking at these straight on [they were removed during the restoration] they were meant to be viewed from below looking up. A second look clarified the image.

The most striking part of visit for me was the variety of tombs spanning such a long period in history.
The chap below is one of the oldest surviving wooden effigies of a knight. Dating from 1280 we can't be sure who he was. Possibly a Crusader, crossed legs at the ankle may confirm one crusade....or so some theories go.

How about this for a bit of Medieval bling. Poet Laureate, John Gower [1330-1408] is shown with his head resting on his greatest works. It's not a name that has come down to us through the ages [I appreciate academic circles are quite a different matter], unlike his more famous friend Chaucer. It doesn't show in the photo but trust me the lion at the end must have been the inspiration for Parsley the lion in "The Herb Garden". He's a dead ringer! The photo will enlarge if you double click it.

A rather more macabre affair- the cadaver tomb of Thomas Cure, saddler to Elizabeth I, who died in 1588. It was intended to be a blunt reminder that whatever your status in life, in death our earthly remains are going to decompose the same way. Unlike now, death wasn't tidied away in a box marked "do not open". Our ancestors had a very different attitude and lacked our modern squeamishness.

This is the Humble Monument. Richard Humble, alderman is seen here with his two wives, Elizabeth and Isabel. The records show that the naughty chap was fined for grazing his sheep in the churchyard without permission! Clearly he didn't live up to his name then!

At Southwark you are a stone's throw away from the Globe and all things Bard related. It's claimed the man himself came to the church. It is known that his brother, Edmond, was buried here in 1607. Below the Shakespeare window William has a sprig of rosemary in his hand for remembrance.

Another fellow who looks the picture of wonders if he actually died of boredom having got cornered in the tavern by the local hypochondriac listing all his ailments. This is Dr Lionel Lockyer [d 1672] Nowadays I think we would want to insert the word "Quack" in front of his title....all manner of medical claims were made for his famous pills which included such readily available ingredients as sunbeams. I expect you'll find something similar for sale today on the internet somewhere! Ripping people off is nothing new is it!

Perhaps I should end my brief tour with the not so surprising gargoyles. Mr GBT [he's getting his five minutes of fame in this post isn't he] is quite convinced that the mason used the lamprey for his inspiration with those sharp, pointy teeth!!

That's all folks...until next time!



  1. I love your church visits-some of my favorite parts of your blog. You have such a great eye for the details and history. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Sam. I'm glad you enjoy my slightly off centre take on my visits.

  2. What a thoughtful pressie that walking tour was, your son's a clever lad!
    Southwark Cathedral looks suitably grand and awe-inspiring. I adore those gargoyles. Mr GBT is spot on there, those gnashers do look very lamprey-like. xxx

    1. Yes our son knows us- it was a Bizarre London Walk. The cathedral was something we did before hand.


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