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Tuesday 26th January – 4th meeting of 2016

We had intended to go the Geffrye Museum today but a threatened tube strike changed our plans and we decided to stay close to a main rail station i.e. London Bridge and view Southwark cathedral.

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There were only five of us today due to holiday and illness so we went for a coffee first near to the Cathedral. When we went over to the cathedral we were met by a church steward who welcomed us and took us to the rear of the church to view the memorial to the Marchioness riverboat tragedy in 1989.  We were also shown the 12 wooden bosses saved from the 15th century by fire in 1830, all of which were beautifully carved in various designs.

Southwark cathedral stands at the oldest crossing point of the tidal Thames and which was the only entrance to the City of London from across the water.  The first church and convent was built there in the 7th century by the ferryman whose trade made him very rich.

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It was rebuilt in the 9th century by the Bishop of Winchester, St Swithin replacing the convent with a monastery.  In the 12th century it was rebuilt by the Augustinian Canons who also built and ran St Thomas Hospital as part of the Priory and traces of the Priory church of St Mary Overie still survive.  In 1540 the church was rebuilt after a fire to become the Parish of St Saviour Southwark. In 1905 the St Saviours church became the cathedral church of a new diocese of Southwark for the increased population of South London.  The cathedral is not built on a grand scale but is an amalgamation of previous older portions of buildings and the main part of the church is light airy warm and welcoming.

It is rich in monuments and one of the earliest is an oak effigy of a knight with ankles crossed and one hand resting on the pommel of his sword (c1278).  Another effigy is of John Gower, poet laureate to King Richard 11 and Henry 1V.

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In the south aisle is a Shakespeare Memorial carved in 1912 by Henry McCarthy above which is a memorial window by Christopher Loebb in 1954 to replace the war damaged window.  Every year a service is held in Shakespeare’s honour as this was the church for many of his friends and colleagues from the 5 theatres nearby including The Globe.  His youngest brother Edmund is buried in the Cathedral.

Among the furnishings are the magnificent three tiered High Altar Screen a gift in 1520 of Richard Fox Bishop of Winchester showing saints and heroes of the Southwark story.  The statues in the niches are from 1907 and the lower part of the screen was gilded and repainted by Sir Ninian Comper, who in 1950 designed the stained glass east window behind and above the screen the ‘Lord in Glory’.

John Harvard, benefactor of Havard University was born in Southwark in 1607 and baptised in St Saviours and is commemorated in the Harvard Chapel who’s reconstruction was paid for by members of Harvard University.

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We enjoyed our visit as there is so much to see and we all liked the feel of the Cathedral as a warm welcoming building.  We made our way back to London Bridge station via Borough Market enjoying the sights and smells of the many stalls selling all manner of food and drink.  Part of the market is closed due to maintenance work and those stalls moved to Jubilee Place so it was more compact than usual.

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It was a good visit to both the Cathedral and market and it would be ideal for a return visit another time.