I went to a Christmas carol service last night for the first time in years. Like many others I suspect, I enjoy belting out the odd carol despite being a card-carrying atheist. After meeting a few like-minded folks from Tower Hamlets Wheelers at Mile End’s Green Bridge, we headed south towards the Isle Of Dogs. We zigzagged around the island on a quick tour of the gloriously over-the-top Christmas light displays put up by some of the local residents before looping back north to St Anne’s Church in Limehouse.
Having ascertained that we could park our bikes at the rear of the church, we entered and were greeted by the amazing sight of the church and it’s enormous domed ceiling lit purely by candlelight. In spite of the ongoing renovation work, the beauty of the building was clear to see and the flickering light of what must have been 300 candles only served to enhance the atmosphere. The words to the carols had been ‘modernised’ so we found ourselves stumbling over ye/thee/you and my memory for melody let me down on a couple of occasions and I ended up singing something more akin to John Martyn’s superb ‘May You Never‘ than Hark The Heald Angels Sing. Whilst an advanced party headed to the The Grapes in nearby Narrow Street, Gary and myself crept into the crypt and availed ourselves of the mince pies and mulled wine whilst chatting to a couple of the congregation who were cyclists. Suitably restored, we pedalled round to The Grapes and spent a happy couple of hours supping ale and talking about everything from Peter Ackroyd books to industrial archeology. A top night out in terrific company.
St Anne’s is one of the six churches built by Nicholas Hawksmoor in line with a 1711 Act Of Parliament providing money for the building of 50 new churches in London – the others are St Alfege’s Church, Greenwich; St George’s Bloomsbury; Christ Church, Spitalfields; St George in the East, Wapping and St Mary Woolnoth in the City Of London. St Mary’s also has the rare distinction of having an Underground station directly beneath where the vaults used to be.
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