Tuesday 19th June – 20th meeting of 2012

This week we met at Cannon Street and were planning a return visit to St. John’s Gate as last time we tried it was closed. Holidays in the sun, visiting friends and recovery from operation meant we were down to five today. Cannon Street station is undergoing a complete refurbishment and looks very good and almost finished. Outside of the station we went into Starbucks for a coffee. It was very busy and full of city office workers chatting using laptops and iPads. Nowadays it seems lots of meetings and decisions are made in coffee shops and is reminiscent of the early days of The City of London when all deals were struck in the coffee houses!

We started to walk towards St Paul’s but as we were not sure of the location of St John’s Gate we made use of the many street maps around the city. We also asked some workman but it seems they were not sure. As it was a lovely sunny, warm day it was very nice walking around the city and we passed quite a few streets and buildings that we have explored on our walks. We finally arrived and were pleased that it was open.

St John’s Gate was originally the entrance to the former Priory of St John and now houses the Museum of The Order of St John. Entry into the Museum is free with a the option of a donation.  It tells the story of the Order of St John from 11th century in Jerusalem to the role today of St John Ambulance.  It is set in two large galleries and a long link gallery corridor.  Throughout there are videos giving the history. The order was set up by the Knights in 11th century at Priory at St John’s Gate,  Clerkenwell and they worked in Crete, Jerusalem, and Malta helping the sick and needy.  The Priory was dissolved by Henry 8th reinstated by Mary Queen of Scots and then dissolved by Elizabeth 1st.  During its colourful history it has housed Master of the Revels where Shakespeare came to licence his plays. It was childhood home of artist William Hogarth, writer Dr Samuel Johnson and became Old Jerusalem Tavern where Charles Dickens came to drink. It was granted the St John Ambulance status by Queen Victoria.

The refurbishment of the Museum is really lovely.  Light and airy and easy to understand.  One of our ladies really liked the wood that was used on walls and cabinets and enquired at the reception desk what it was as she wanted exactly the same for the floors in her house.  After a short time a man from the office can and told her it was English limed oak.  Hopefully she will able to purchase some! The Museum has many exhibits including silver, ceramics, clothing, paintings and documents.  It was very enjoyable and well worth a visit. Tours are available and we decided that we will return at a later day to partake in one.

We made our donation and took the short walk to St John’s Square to look inside the Church but unfortunately it was being cleaned so we could not go in so we went down the Crypt.  This was built in 12th century has beautiful stained glass windows and the familiar damp, cold smell and atmosphere that all crypts have!

At the back of the Church we found a beautiful garden.  A square of an oasis of flowers greenery and peace in the middle of the bustling busy streets of the city.  All the seats were taken by office workers enjoying their lunches in a little bit of paradise! There was a robin flying about picking up the crumbs!

From here we walked back to Cannon Street station and popped into Craft Central Showcase Gallery in St John’s Square.  Here we viewed a stunning display of ceramics, jewellery and paintings by modern craft ladies.  All exhibits were very attractive and very different.

Back at Cannon Street we got our trains home after a very pleasant day in lovely sunny London!!