London Day 4 – With Knights and Nuns

Aug 19, 2018 – Sunday

We initially planned on doing the Tower of London walk on Sunday at 11 am but didn’t feel like rushing for it from Piyank’s place. So we did a lazy Sunday morning with roti and chana made by Tua. Then I made the variation of bread chana which everyone liked very much. Then the OPOS classes started ! We made the dry cauliflower subzi and the veg Biriyani, Biriyani being a favourite of Tua’s. Both turned out quite well and has got Piyank and Tua interested in OPOS. I ate a toasted bagel on the side and went easy on the Biriyani as I eat that very often and we don’t get a proper bagel in India :).

Piyank then dropped us off at the Upminster station and asked us to take the “ctc” overground train to Fenchurch street station. He told us how to get to Tower Hill station from Fenchurch station for our “Ancient London” walk. We got there almost 30 minutes ahead of time and sat for sometime in the Trinity park in front of the Tower hill station. The best part about London are these beautiful tiny, medium and large parks that are peppered all over the cityscape. One can sit for hours watching the beautiful greenery and flowers.

Then it was time for the walk and in walked Lawrence in place of Sue. We were about 20 of us for the walk and a father-daughter duo who were Tamilians were part of the group as well. Interestingly the walk started in the Trinity park and what a gruesome history that place had – Thomas Moore, the Duke of Suffolk and nearly 200 other folks were executed (read beheaded) here between the 13th century and 18th century. After that bit of history we walked back towards civilisation and into some modern building only to stop in front of a stone wall and yeah, this is the oldest wall in Britain from 120 AD. The Romans built this wall and a small section of it is still standing.

The wall built by the Romans in 120 AD

Romans were pagans and Christianity came to England when the Saxons replaced the Romans in 1400s. The Saxons from Germany were very strict catholics and punished people with death if they didn’t convert to Christianity or didn’t attend church. Many churches came up and with the churches came monks, friars and nuns. The difference between the Friars and Monks was that the friars worked for the monks and many of them were corrupt. Lawrence explained how many of the friars were punished for their corruption.

We came upon the place in front of the Aldgate trinity church which was earlier just a large gate with houses over it. In the 1300s Chaucer had a house here. I remembered that the Canterbury tales was written by Chaucer, but I didn’t know it was the same person who lived here.

The Aldgate trinity church earlier was a nunnery and then had the dubious distinction of the place where the mummified head of the 1st Duke of Suffolk who had been executed by Queen Mary was found in the 1800s.This church escaped the great fire of London as it is made of stone.

We then wound our way through interesting looking buildings till we came to the church of St. Helen’s Bishop Gate.

Its an insurance company’s office building – quite a fascinating structure

We also came across an interesting sculpture which has been made by Nancy Rubins and one of the sponsors is Aon, my ex-employer. There were other art installations scattered across the city that we didn’t get a chance to take a closer look at.

The last church that survived the great London fire was St Helen’s bishop gate church. This is a pretty church and has several tombs, one of John spencer who could be an ancestor of Lady Diana. Shakespeare frequented this church and there is a great stained glass painting of his inside the church. While this church survived the London fire, WWII, etc, in 1992 a bomb placed by the IRA damaged a portion of the wall. It has been subsequently rebuilt.

St. Helen’s church Bishopgate
The first pic is the tomb of John Spencer and an interesting thing to note is all the sculptures on the tombs are holding their hands in a “Namaste”… wonder why?
Shakespeare on the stained glass window !

From the church we went to a location where a statue of a Knight has been kept. The Knight Templars were the first bankers but some of them got greedy and became corrupt. When pointed out to the king, he burned two of them alive to teach a lesson to anyone else who tried to be corrupt. The burning took place on a Friday, the 13th of Oct 1308. That’s why the superstition regarding Friday the 13th …. and while India has nothing to do with the Knights Templar, in some of the condominium complexes the 13th floor is mentioned as the 14th !

Globalisation ? or just aping the west? 🙂

Statue of a Knight Templar

The walk ended near the Liverpool street station where the first Bethlehem hospital was setup – for the mentally ill. People would come and watch these patients in a voyeuristic way so the hospital decided to charge some money. The rule then was if the patient wasn’t cured within a year, they were just thrown out on the street.

Lawrence suggested that we look at the statues of small children that are placed at the entrance of the Liverpool station as these were a memorial to the jewish children that were saved by the people of Britain from Nazi persecution.

From the Liverpool station we walked towards the Monument tube station to head back home and found “THE” monument after which the station was named. Its a memorial to the great London fire.

London has so many stories and a rich history so its fascinating to discover parts of it afresh everyday….

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