Tuesday, 15 August 2006

st marylebone; king charles the martyr

On Friday, in between feeding some not very hungry ducks in Regent's Park and visiting the British Library, we popped in to St Marylebone Parish Church. There were another couple of visitors sitting down, and a man came in to pray. The building itself was attractive enough, nothing out of the ordinary, and I got no sense of what the church itself might be like (there is a cafe and a healing and counselling centre in the crypt).

Unexpectedly, to me anyway, Charles Wesley is buried there: he was organist there for a while (their website says, 'During his last illness Charles Wesley sent for the Rector of St Marylebone, The Revd John Harley (of the family after whom Harley Street is named), and said: "Sir, whatever the world may say of me, I have lived, and I die, a member of the Church of England. I pray you to bury me in your churchyard."'). Stainer's Crucifixion was written for the choir there, and Charles Dickens lived nearby and had his son baptised there. The fact that Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett were married there is marked. The fancy chandeliers, which we noticed, came in the Sixties from the Marylebone Council Chamber, which was closing.

The church website also gives an explanation of the origin of 'Marylebone': 'This is the fourth church to serve this parish. The first, circa 1200, dedicated to St John the Evangelist, was the parish church of Tyburn and stood in the vicinity of the present Marble Arch. In 1400 it was demolished and a new church built nearer to the village of Marylebone. This was on the site of the memorial garden at the north end of Marylebone High Street. This church was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, by the bourne; the Ty bourne being a stream running from what is now Regent's Park down to the Thames. In course of time the dedication became St Mary le burn, corrupted to St Marylebone.'.

On Saturday, while in Tunbridge Wells, we visited King Charles The Martyr Church (which gives a clue of position on the Civil War), which was a more interesting building by virtue of being almost square inside. When the congregation was getting too big, they extended the church by knocking down a side wall and extending it virtually identically widthways, the fancy ceilings in particular emphasising this. They had a brass plaque to mark where Queen Victoria used to sit in the gallery. It's been reoriented internally three times (the business end was initially at the north, then the west, now the east) - I guess it's probably too late to go for the fourth to make the complete set. And the man in the church said that Christopher Robin Milne used to go there, making it Winnie the Pooh's church. It was the first permanent building in Tunbridge Wells, part of the initial development by an entrepreneur who saw the commercial possibilities of the chalybeate spring.

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