Southwark Cathedral, London SE1

 

Wooden effigy of Unknown Knight
Reputedly the oldest wooden effigy in Britain

 

Literally a few steps away from the hustle of Borough Market is the calm oasis of Southwark Cathedral. It is a wonderful mixture of old and new. It contains a wooden effigy of a knight from the 13th Century, reputedly the oldest in Britain and its Northern cloister was opened in 2001 by Nelson Mandela.

Shakespeare

There are monuments and memorials from many time periods in between. There is a stained glass window and bas-relief dedicated to Shakespeare, his brother Edmund is buried here. The Cathedral is on the South Bank of the Thames where many of the theatres used to be in Shakespeare’s time.

 

Tomb of Thomas Gower
Tomb of Thomas Gower

 

There are tombs of quite different types, from the multi-coloured wooden one of the poet, Thomas Gower, a contemporary of Chaucer, to the more austere and eerie one of Thomas Cure, a 16th Century parliamentarian.

 

Thomas Cure
Tomb of Thomas Cure

 

There are memorials to those who lost their lives in both the first and second world wars, victims of the Marchioness sinking in 1986 and Isabella Gilmore, the first deaconess of Southwark. There are also monuments to both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

Deaconess memorial

While you are here don’t forget to look at the fixtures and fittings in the building. The black marble font and outrageously ornate wooden cover, at the nave of the church is one highlight, the eagle lectern, near the altar is another.

Lectern

Added to all this is the architectural splendour of the Cathedral. There are details here from a whole range of different engineering periods. The vaulted ceilings in the main church are beautiful, but the marble bricked ceilings in the naves are equally so.

Sculpture
Walk through the church into the garden and you can sit in verdant peace, with the noise of the market in the background. There are a couple of unusual sculptures here, but the flowers are beautiful. An often overlooked gem in the heart of tourist London, just the place to dip in to, if you feel the need to step out of the boisterous city for a quiet break.

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The Café in the Crypt, St-Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London

st_johns_crypt_cafe
If you are near Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, St Martins Lane or the National Gallery, there is a lovely little hidden café underneath the St Martin-in-the-Fields church.
You enter by going downstairs in a circular glass structure in the wide alley just to the North of the church.
Once you are downstairs you will be in a large atmospheric crypt with beautiful arched vaulted ceilings. The acoustics are great, even when it is full you can hear your party’s conversation without difficulty.
The floor is flagged with large stones and some very old gravestones. There are busts of famous ancient Londoners  dotted throughout, in hidden alcoves.
It serves very good food; soup made on the premises, nice hot dishes that change from day to day, lovely cakes and biscuits and it is licensed, if you fancy a glass of wine with your lunch.
There is a good choice for vegetarians too.
If you a looking for somewhere that is right in the centre of tourist London that, perhaps, most tourists might miss, then this is just the place.
A real hidden gem!
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The picture above is of the entrance, in case you miss it. It has Jazz evenings on Wednesdays. Oh and the church that it is beneath, St Martin-in-the-Fields, is not to shabby either!