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Review: Faith in the City of London by Niki Gorick

Faith in the CityThere are over 50 places of worship in the City of London, serving many faiths. In times gone by there were many more. Dozens of churches have been lost down the years to fire, the Blitz and town planning, St. Paul’s being chief among them. Most have risen from the ashes – resurgam – and many others have disappeared forever. A tiny handful, such as St Olave Hart Street, miraculously swerved disaster. The sad ruins of a couple – St Dunstan-in-the-East, Christ Church Greyfriars –  remind us of what we have lost.

Still, you may think that many is a good many for just a square mile (+/-). But, actually, they have a lot of ground to cover, and not just ecumenically. The City comprises 26 Wards and is also the home to over a hundred livery companies, most of them dating from medieval times. In addition there are dozens of military units attached to the Square Mile in some way. Virtually all of these institutions have a bond with one or more church. Then there is their relationship with City Hall itself. Throw this into the mix of actual ecumenical work and you will soon appreciate how busy and vibrant the City’s religious institutions are and have to be.

This new book by Niki Gorick covers all of this. She has been taking pictures in the City for many years with exhibitions at the Guildhall and elsewhere. This project is the culmination of over 200 individual shoots over several years. In the Preface she explains why the City’s religious institutions are so vibrant, an incongruous situation for many who only see the Square Mile’s ‘reputation as a financially obsessed powerhouse’. She writes, rather, of the ‘hidden and surprisingly vibrant world of worship, stretching out into many different faiths’. She explores in the pages that follow, the ‘multi-layered interaction between faith and commerce within its tight geographical confines’.

It would be easy and obvious to include church images which are purely architectural. There are none. This is because – first, foremost and throughout – this is a book about people, where architectural features – windows, columns, porches whatever –  play a supporting role. As you would expect, the ordained feature most strongly. At the head we have two bishops of London: the outgoing Richard Chartres; and his successor, London’s first woman Bishop, Sarah Mullally whose brilliant and natural smile shines from several of these pages. There are the ‘characters’, some of whom you might know:  Archdeacon Luke Miller, a regular on Twitter; Rev David Parrott of St Lawrence Jewry; Bertrand Olivier, formerly of All Hallows by the Tower; Rose Hudson-Wilkin and many more. Their enthusiasm and dedication for all to see.

Interfaith dialogue - The Rt. Rev. & Rt. Hon. Dame Sarah Mullaly

Bishop Sarah Mullally with Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Church.

And then, of course, their congregations. Some might be ordinary worshippers, others functionaries, musicians, bell ringers and so on. Still others are ordinary members of the public in the streets, bemused perhaps to see congregationalists of St Bride’s rolling eggs down Fleet Street at Easter; or a donkeys being welcomed at St Giles Cripplegate during Holy Week.

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Faith in the City of London is divided into 10 Chapters which address various types of religious roles and activities. Broadly speaking, the early chapters deal with ecumenical matters, mainly pertaining to service and ceremony. There is a lot of emphasis on diversity of worship. Inevitably, most of the ‘action’ relates to the ministry of the predominant, established order: the Church of England. However, the author has given  much space to other Christian denominations – Roman Catholic, Romanian Orthodox, Welsh Presbyterians etc. – along with Jewish worshippers of Bevis Marks; and other non-Christian faiths which lack their own buildings but nonetheless are catered for, in particular Muslims and Sikhs.

500_The first fire of Easter at St Barts

The first fire of Easter at St Barts.

500-Muslim Friday prayers at Wax Chandlers

Muslim Friday prayers at Wax Chandlers’ Hall.

The second half of the book, roughly, looks at the history of faith in the City as well as the very rich topic of music. Quirky and ancient ceremonies such as Beating the Bounds and the Knollys Rose ceremony; the Great Fire and more recently, celebrating the Siege of Malta every August. Of course the City’s churches have a centuries old bell-ringing and choral tradition alongside organ music. In addition they are venues for a plethora of other music – military, classical, jazz, folk, rock, world – all of it (Top Tip: the City is a fabulous place for a free concert, especially at lunch time!).

The end of the book examines other functions of City churches, as venues for anything from corporate lunches to yoga. It also shows pictures of evangelical outreach activity: mixing with the community in businesses, shops, second hand book sales, and so on.

So all in all, a huge swathe of territory pictorially covered.

Faith in the City of London is atmospheric, joyous and optimistic. It is a celebration of a side to the Square Mile that many of us – including even people who work there every day of their lives – don’t always realise or see.


All images by Niki Gorrick. 


Faith in the City of London (160pp) by Niki Gorick is published by Unicorn Publishing with a cover price of £25.

 

 

 

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Exhibition at Hogarth’s House, 22 January – 3 April 2016

A guest post by LH Member, Val Bott

Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, or the Artificial Changeling, John Bulwer, 1653, a study of the way humans have modified their bodies for cultural and cosmetic reasons

Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, or the Artificial Changeling, John Bulwer, 1653, a study of the way humans have modified their bodies for cultural and cosmetic reasons

Layton’s Library: A Curious Collection will display some of the most beautiful and unusual examples of 17th and 18th century books once owned by Brentford antiquarian Thomas Layton. These are amongst the oldest volumes from his remarkable collection and this is an exciting opportunity to see them for the first time.

Supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Thomas Layton Trust is running a project to raise awareness and understanding of the collection. The exhibition has been curated by a team of dedicated local volunteers who have selected books for display from around 8,000 volumes! Visitors will be intrigued by these early books, their various subjects, their bindings and their illustrations. They will also learn a little about Layton and his passion for collecting and the Trust hopes the exhibition will raise awareness of the collection and share it with a new generation of readers.

The exhibition is on show at Hogarth’s House, Chiswick, admission free. Visitors are welcome from Tuesday to Sunday, between 12 noon to 5pm, until 3 April. From 30 April 2016, some of the exhibition will be on show at Boston Manor House in Brentford, where the Trust is planning a range of workshops for adults and children during the summer months.

Thomas Layton (born in 1819, died 1911) lived for the majority of his life on Kew Bridge Road in Brentford, West London. He was a lighterman, a coal merchant, a churchwarden, a member of the Burial Board and a Poor Law Guardian but, above all, he was a collector. During the course of his life he built up an enormous and intriguing collection of ‘every conceivable thing that can be found in an antique store’, including maps, prints, spears, swords, tokens, medals and coins, but his plans to endow a museum and library in Brentford ran into difficulties.

Many of his antiquities are on public display in the Museum of London; the river wall in their London Before London gallery. However, by far the largest element of his collection – the extraordinary collection of books – has remained relatively unknown and little used. The laytoncollection.org website has brought many of the elements together as a “virtual museum” for you to explore.

Antiquarians frm Grose

Rules for drawing caricatures: with an essay on comic painting, Francis Grose, 1791, with wonderful illustrations by the author

The books on show include
A Compleat Collection of English Proverbs, John Ray, 3rd edition 1737
New, Authentic and Complete Collection of Voyages Round the World, Captain Cook’s First, Second, Third and Last Voyages, by George William Anderson, issued in 80 sixpenny parts 1784-6
Picturesque Views on the River Thames, Samuel Ireland, 1791
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, 1631 edition
The Fables of Aesop, Paraphrased in Verse, Adorned with Sculpture & Illustrated with Annotations by John Ogilvie Esq, 1668
Indian antiquities or Dissertations relative to Hindostan, Thomas Maurice, 1792
A discourse concerning old-age Tending to The Instruction, Caution and Comfort of Aged Persons, Richard Steele, 1688
The Lady’s Magazine or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated solely to their Use and Amusement, 1790
The English House-Wife, Containing The inward and outward Vertues which ought to be in a Compleat Woman, Gervase Markham, 1683
Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, or the Artificial Changeling, John Bulwer, 1653
Rules for drawing Caricaturas: with an Essay on Comic Painting, Francis Grose, 1791

The Lady’s Magazine or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex. Appropriated solely to their Use and Amusement. Vol. XXI for the year 1790 - genteel entertainment, one year's monthly issue bound as a single volume.

The Lady’s Magazine or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex. Appropriated solely to their Use and Amusement. Vol. XXI for the year 1790 – genteel entertainment, one year’s monthly issue bound as a single volume.

LaytonHH_008c

LaytonHH_033c

LaytonLibrary@HH_0064c

LaytonLibrary@HH_0056c

Preview evening. 

LaytonLibrary@HH_0062c

Preview evening. 

All images by Toni Marshall. 

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