Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Day 7 – Sunday including Mudlarking

There is a beautiful Catholic church right in Marylebone where I am staying, St. James's, Spanish Place, which has an interesting history. After the restoration of Charles II, the Spanish Embassy was re-established in London, eventually living in Hertford House, now the home of the Wallace Collection. A chapel was built on the corner of Spanish Place for embassy use. While the local archdiocese took over the chapel in 1827 and the current church was built in 1890, there is still an unofficial relationship with the Spanish Embassy.
A requiem Mass for the King of Portugal was held at the church in 1908, which was attended by Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. This was the first Catholic Mass attended by a British Monarch since James II. The church is a stone Gothic design and very unusually faces west.
Somehow I knew this was Robert Dudley
from across the room!
I was intrigued to learn its primary Sunday Mass is celebrated in Latin with a professional choir so set off on Trinity Sunday and slid into a second-row pew. I felt as if Vatican II never happened but I enjoyed it, although a missal would have helped because I do not remember all my high school Latin. We even knelt at an altar rail to receive Communion. The priest invited everyone to coffee hour in the basement so I went and chatted with strangers for half an hour or so. I accepted tea and a biscuit and explained I was on a course. The Rector, Father Christopher Colven was very friendly and turned out to have stayed with Cardinal Law in Brighton, so was interested to hear of our family connection.  I did not learn how the Latin Mass became a tradition at this church but they are very proud that people stream it from many different countries.  I also spoke to a friendly young Portuguese graphic designer who suggested several special collection libraries that would be interesting to visit. On the way back to the dorm, I passed a Farmer’s Market and bought delicious raspberries.
The Laughing Cavalier
It seemed the perfect afternoon to visit the Wallace Collection, which is one of London’s lesser-known gems. It was the home of the Marquess of Hertford but inherited by an illegitimate son, who continued the family tradition of adding priceless 18th and 19th century art. His wife left the house and its contents to the British Nation and it is now a lavishly furnished museum with a beautiful courtyard that serves high tea. My friend at church had raved about the Sevres porcelain but the paintings and furnishings appealed to me more. Jess and Dr. Steele joined me for a wonderful tour and I was especially intrigued to learn about French painter Francois Boucher and his 1759 painting of Madame de Pompadour which was intended to include hidden meanings to Louis XV. One of the other highlights of the collection is a Flemish painting called The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals. I always have a weakness for Civil War heroes. After the tour, Dr. Steele and I had high tea in the courtyard. The services was very poor but the atmosphere was pleasant and I do like Coronation Chicken sandwiches.
Mudlarking involves scavenging the tidal flats of the Thames for artifacts of the past and one of the USM professors planned a group expedition. Initially, I was disappointed that this event had not been shared with us before we left home because I did not bring shoes suitable for getting muddy by the Thames. However, a few days earlier, I saw an old pair of sneakers that had been discarded by someone moving out of the dorm and they were about the right size so I helped myself.
Artifact in foreground and St. Paul's in background
I had missed the group’s departure but one of my cohorts thoughtfully texted the location so I headed for the Globe Theatre, then wended my way down to the water’s edge. I kept thinking how pleased my Latin teacher, Miss Cox, would have been had I found a Roman coin but obviously, that didn’t happen. It was funny watching the 40 or so USM students wandering around looking eagerly for treasure. There was an expert mudlarker who had been recruited to help us, so we kept bringing him our finds. I told him it would be easier with a metal diviner and he said they were illegal. I did find a bone (animal), a piece of flint, a small bit of porcelain, and a pretty speckled stone. I kept thinking if it were the first chapter of a book, I would find part of a recent human body. But I got some funny looks when I shared this thought!
My finds
Miles walked: 5.1


Lex @ Lexlingua said...

Some time back, I read a review of Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames
Book by Lara Maiklem, and that's how I got to know about the concept. Pity I never tried it out myself. Love your trip recaps, brings back so many happy memories! Hope you have a wonderful trip.

CLM said...

I will have to hunt that up when I get home, Lex! One of my classmates had read a historical novel about an apothecary that she said had mudlarking in it, which also sounded good (although possibly anachronistic).

LyzzyBee said...

Oh yes, Mudlarking is a great book. Glad you got to try it out.

Katrina said...

I would love to try mudlarking, but I sometimes help my brother-in-law with his metal detecting, mainly on farmland, with permission. So do you not kneel at an altar rail to receive Communion in the US?

CLM said...

We definitely knelt to receive Communion when I was a child but I had not seen it done for many years (not that I object - in some ways it is more reverent). My professor who describes herself as a "Back Row Baptist" told me today she thought St. Paul's Cathedral (where she attended services last Sunday) was a Catholic church. I wasn't with her but I guess she was confused by how high the Church of England is and she didn't know they also use the word "Mass".

I meant to ask the mudlarking advisor if using a metal detecting rod is only banned at the Thames. I feel like people use them at the beach in the US but I guess that is only what I have read - I've never seen one in person. It would have been really cool to actually find something!

Katrina said...

Here you are only allowed to use a metal detector at the beach above the high tide line. Churches can be confusing, I was amused to see so many Catholic tourists at the Scottish Episcopalian Cathedral in Inverness. It is very high so I could see how they would make the mistake, esp as they were from southern Europe. My brother-in-law has always called himself a priest despite being Episcopalian and wears an RC collar. Kneeling is definitely required even in low Episcopalian churches, but Scottish Presbyterian is very different, you stand up to pray!

JaneGS said...

Your posts are forming my guidebook for a trip to London. I love that you go to such interesting places and do such interesting things. I've been eagerly anticipating reading this blog post just to read about mudlarking. I agree with you, mudlarking the Thames and finding a human bone is an excellent start to a novel.

Going to church services is a great way to meet locals and find out interesting things. My daughter and I went to a service in Shrewsbury when we visited in 2009, and meeting congregation afterwards was such a fun experience that is very non-touristy.

CLM said...

I agree that going to the local church reveals a whole new aspect of the area and if there is a coffee hour all the better! I did not have Shrewsbury high on my list but maybe I should have - how did you happen to choose to go there?

Just a week after I got home, I read about someone who found a Roman coin while mudlarking and I was very jealous.

JaneGS said...

We picked Shrewsbury because our trip started in Dublin, and then we took the ferry to Wales, and were headed to Stratford, so we looked at the map and picked Shrewsbury because it was on the way and I had recently read a Brother Cadfael mystery and was intrigued.