Thursday, June 23, 2022

Day 14 – Sunday in Hampstead Heath

I thought Sunday seemed the perfect day to walk on Hampstead Heath, so first I found a church in the neighborhood and took a bus there. St Mary's was the first Catholic church to be built in Hampstead after the English Reformation and it took until the 19th century. The church is tucked away on a quiet street among residential homes. The Abbé Jean-Jacques Morel, a refugee from the French Revolution, was its first pastor. The little chapel was completed in less than a year and opened in 1816. At that time, most of the congregation were French refugees. During WWII, General Charles de Gaulle worshipped at the church. Another notable, Graham Greene, was married at this church in 1927.
The city is visible in the distance
The priest began by saying, “I am sure you wonder who I am.” (I had not wondered but assumed a curious face.) He told us he was Philip Whitmore and was substituting for the pastor who was visiting Rome, and said he had recently been stationed in Rome himself; now his home parish is St. James, Spanish Place, where I had attended Mass last week. When I spoke with him after Mass, I asked if he had ever run into my brother Peter in Rome and he said indeed he had. Peter says Monsignor Whitmore was the Rector of the English College in Rome, the counterpart to the Pontifical North American College (NAC) in Rome that prepares seminarians to become Catholic priests in the United States and elsewhere.
Lady Hamilton
No coffee hour at this church (or else I wasn’t invited!) so I set out for Kenwood House, which I had heard would be a good place to visit. Everyone and his aunt were out walking, many with dogs, as it was Father’s Day. I plunged into Hampstead Heath and followed a path in what seemed like the right direction. About two-thirds of the way there, when the crowds had thinned out I suddenly heard rock music, which reminded me of the Liz Berry book, Easy Connections. It turned out to be a band called Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, mysteriously in the distance practicing for an evening concert. The venue seemed more suitable for classical music.
an Adam ceiling
Kenwood House is a stately home in Hampstead Heath that belonged to the Earls of Mansfield and is now free and open to the public. In addition to Adam ceilings, period furniture, and other furnishings, it boasts a Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Turner, and Constable as well as portraits of the Stuarts. It is also used in Notting Hill as the set where a movie is being filmed and the Hugh Grant character overhears Anna belittling him. Kenwood House was opening later than usual because it is short of volunteers, just as the train company was short of staff. Luckily, the café was open. I agonized between a scone with clotted cream and Victoria Sponge and the cake won. I sat outside with my tea until it was time to go in and was amused by a woman complaining about her adult daughter to her husband, “It’s always me, myself, and I with that one!” she said darkly.
Dido Belle (left) was Lord Mansfield's great-niece from the
West Indies and was brought up with his family,
which was very unusual in the 18th century 
I stopped by the Marylebone Festival briefly but it was too crowded and my friend Nicky wasn’t at her library so I went to the Tate instead and visited the Pre-Raphaelites and a dramatic large-scale installation by British visual artist Hew Locke. The Procession invites visitors to ‘reflect on the cycles of history, and the ebb and flow of cultures, people and finance and power,’ and is influenced both by the artist’s childhood in Guyana and the complicated relationship of Tate founder, Henry Tate, to the British sugar industry, which benefited from slavery.

Miles walked: 6.3 miles
Books purchased: visited one used bookstore at Kenwood House but found nothing worth buying

1 comment:

JaneGS said...

Still loving traveling vicariously with you. I would have especially liked this day and your ramblings at Hamstead Heath. I enjoy how you find family connections at every turn--very cool.