You can’t beat a good crypt, I say, so yesterday I did something I’ve been meaning to do for ages and popped down St Martin-in-the-Fields‘s enormous cellar. I understand for many years it was a night refuge-cum-soup-kitchen for the homeless; HV Morton wrote a moving article about his visit in the dead of night during the inter-war years. Today most of the space is a trendy cafe and large shop: it is overtly very commercial. But James Gibbs’s building is lovely, no doubt expensive to maintain and perhaps one shouldn’t begrudge them their opportunity to catch so much tourist krill.
But what makes the diversion most worthwhile is to see the collection of old monuments stored there, mostly set into the wall. I’m guessing they are from a pre-Trafalgar Square burial ground nearby or from an earlier incarnation of the church. Or both. The inscriptions would suggest so. I love reading English from the days before Spelling. Look out for the the expensive masonry memorial of a woman who died at 70 and was once the servant of a Royalist General from the Battle of Edge Hill. Most egalitarian!
There is also a rather crude but enjoyable stone (marble?) statue of Henry Croft, “the Original Pearly King”. He was acknowledged with an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography earlier this year.