Friday, March 16, 2012

When I was in London, I visited a lot of churches, and this seemed a sure confirmation of middle age.   Often I was the only person present in a church, other than clerics or volunteers.  This sometimes made me a target, and led to awkward encounters: an invitation to mass, an unctuous guide trailing at my heels trying to direct me to an American memorial (painful proof of a lost accent), and a long conversation with an idling vicar, who talked of his conversion, and pressed a Jesus pamphlet into my hands before I left.  Mostly though, I was left in peace.

St. Clement Danes, in the Strand, is a Christopher Wren church badly damaged during the Blitz.  It is the church of the RAF, and outside is a statue of Bomber Harris, responsible for the bombing of Dresden and other German cities.  The vistors' book is full of tributes to relatives who served their country, but not all the comments are kindly ones:

"Put this statue away,  he is  the devil!"

St. Bartholomew the Great. right around the corner from Smithfield Market & next to St. Barts hospital, has been in continuous use since the twelfth century, and has survived the Great Fire, 18th century squatters & the bombing of World War II.  Its Norman interior is much in demand as a film-set.  The church is known for its healing powers.

I have no desire for a funeral service, or any kind of tombstone, but Edward Cooke's memorial stone is as beautiful as any I've seen.

I hadn't seen a hair-merchant's burial stone before my visit to St. Bartholomew's,

or even thought much about the profession:

Judging from period documents, trading in hair had the potential to be the most lucrative area of the business. In 1756, John Brooks of Holborn recorded sales of parcels of French hair worth £90,000 (roughly £6.5 million today). Harvey Spragge, recorded as a “Hair and Silk Merchant,” was said to have died leaving a fortune of £30,000 in 1733. At the other end of the social spectrum were itinerant chapmen, who often sold human hair, particularly in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries at the height of the wig’s popularity. Urban hair merchants are known to have employed dealers to purchase hair from around the country and it is possible that some exploited the chapmen’s communication links. Another way to procure hair was to make it come to you, as can be seen from advertisements placed by barbers and wig-makers with offers such as this: “If any man or woman hath good hair to sell, let them repair to George Gray Barber and Perriwig maker over against the Greyhound Tavern in Blackfriars, London; there they shall have at least as much ready money as anybody else will give.”

Issue 40 Hair Winter 2010/11 , Matters of the Head - Emma Markiewicz

At Southwark Cathedral, I coveted shoes.


Marty Wombacher said...

Great photos, thanks for sharing part of your trip with us!

Laura Goggin Photography said...

A few years back, I traveled around the island, visiting all the churches. I can only recall one where I encountered another human being. And, I think he'd been waiting for a visitor for ages, as he talked my ear off (I learned a lot). I've never been a church-goer, but I found them all to be really wonderful places, full of history, art, family...despite being empty.

I love those shoes, too!