10 November 2022
One of the joys of visiting London is strolling through its many parks and squares, discovering new sculptures and monuments. During my visit last week, I visited both Tavistock Square, which is a regular favourite, and Saint Martin’s Gardens in Camden Town, which I visited for the first time. Both are now managed by London Borough of Camden.
Tavistock Square in the heart of Bloomsbury was built shortly after 1806 by the property developer James Burton and the master builder Thomas Cubitt for Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford.
The square formed part of the Bedford Estate in London, owned by the Dukes of Bedford, and square takes its name from the Marquess of Tavistock, a courtesy title given to the eldest sons of the Dukes of Bedford.
The centre-piece of the gardens is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, sculpted by the Polish sculptor Fredda Brilliant (1903-1999), who had lived in India for many years. She designed he hollow pedestal to hold floral tributes to the peace campaigner and nonviolent resister to oppression in South Africa and India who studied law nearby at University College London.
Gandhi’s statue was unveiled by the Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1968 and is now a Grade II listed monument.
A cherry tree was planted on 6 August 1967 by the Mayor of Camden, Millie Miller, in memory of the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945. It inspired the planting of a similar cherry tree by Irish CND in Merrion Square, Dublin, on 6 August 1980.
The Conscientious Objectors Commemorative Stone in Tavistock Square was unveiled in 1994 to commemorate ‘men and women conscientious objectors all over the world and in every age.’
The idea of having a stone dedicated to conscientious objectors (COs) to war was initiated in 1976 at the funeral of a conscientious objector, Joseph Brett, who had been imprisoned in 1916. The erection of this massive slate stone was co-ordinated by the Peace Pledge Union (PPU).
Hugh Court of Architects for Peace and the sculptor Paul Wehrle chose a naturally shaped piece of grey-green Cumbrian volcanic slate, 400 million years old and larger than the size originally envisaged. It was unveiled by the composer Sir Michael Tippett, President of the PPU and a former Conscientious Objector, on 15 May 1994, International Conscientious Objectors’ Day.
These three features have led to Tavistock Square unofficially becoming London’s peace park or garden, and annual ceremonies are held at each of these memorials.
A bust of the writer Virginia Woolf, cast from a 1931 sculpture by Stephen Tomlin (1901-1937), was unveiled in 2004 at the south-west corner of the square. She lived at 52 Tavistock Square in 1924-1939. She and her husband Leonard Woolf ran the Hogarth Press, publishing fiction and poetry, including TS Eliot, EM Forster and Katherine Mansfield.
The square has a memorial to the surgeon Dame Louisa Aldrich-Blake (1865-1925), with a bust by Arthur George Walker on a plinth designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Tavistock Square was the scene of one of four suicide bombings on 7 July 2005, when 13 people were killed, and many others were injured.
A memorial honouring the victims of the four suicide bombings in London on 7 July 2005 was unveiled in Tavistock Square Gardens in 2018, replacing a plaque that had been fixed to the railings outside BMA House.
Tavistock Square is managed by London Borough of Camden, which also manages Saint Martin’s Gardens, which I came across for the first time last week as I was searching out All Saints’ Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
Saint Martin’s Gardens first opened in 1889 and is the site of the former Camden Town Cemetery. Until the early 19th century, this was undeveloped pastureland on the edge of Camden Town. It was later used as a burial ground for Saint Martin-in-the-Fields, before being transformed into public gardens.
The land, totalling almost 4 acres, was acquired in 1802 to provide an additional burial ground for Saint Martin-in-the-Fields. Part of the land was also used for Saint Martin’s Almshouses, built in 1818.
The additional burial plot for Saint Martin-in-the-Fields was consecrated in 1805 by the Bishop of London, Beilby Porteus. The neighbouring almshouses were built in 1817-1818. Additional land was bought from the Cemetery Charity in 1843 to enlarge the almshouses, although this did not happen until 1854. Saint Martin’s Close, houses on Camden Street and Pratt Street and additional almshouse buildings were then built.
The grounds had been reduced to less than two acres by 1856 and were closed for burials in 1856. The Vestry of Saint Pancras bought the disused burial ground in 1884, although Saint Martin-in-the-Fields retained the freehold. (I had also visited Saint Pancras Church on Euston Road earlier that same afternoon.)
Saint Pancras vestry laid out public gardens in 1884-1887. Most gravestones were cleared and removed to the perimeter, although a few remain in their original locations. There was public outcry that old graves were being dug up, leading to court actions.
The layout was informal with a central mound, said to contain many of the cleared bones. There are plane trees on the boundaries, a monument in the form of a Celtic memorial cross to the composer Charles Dibdin, who died in 1814, and a granite drinking fbr />
Saint Martin’s Gardens were formally opened on 24 July 1889 by the Countess of Rosebery who also unveiled the monument to Charles Dibdin. The carving on the pedestal supporting the cross includes a lyre and anchor on a pile of rope that unfolds into Celtic patterning.
The drinking fountain opposite the main gates is topped with a column and urn, set into cobbles. It was donated in 1889 by Maples of Tottenham Court Road for the ‘Use of the Public.’
Many of the surviving gravestones were removed to the perimeters, others are dilapidated. Most of the tombstones along the north wall are illegible but unbroken and include that of the physician and geologist Dr George Swiney (1786-1844). There are box tombs of the Woodburn, Moore and Willey families, a crypt tomb of the Harvey family, and an obelisk monument to the Barrow family. Other noted people buried there include Robert Graves, engraver, George Stevens, dramatist and author, and Michael Angelo Rooker.
Nell Gwynne, the long-time mistress of Charles II, and Jack (‘Honest Jack’) Sheppard, a thief known for his dramatic prison escapes, may be among those who were reburied there from old Saint Martin’s churchyard near Charing Cross.
The garden has entrances on Camden Street and Pratt Street, which was the site of the original main entrance and Saint Martin’s Chapel. One corner is a children’s playground.
Hannah Primrose (1851-1890), Countess of Rosebery, who opened the gardens in 1889, a year before her death, was the daughter of Baron Mayer de Rothschild and his wife Juliana (Cohen). She had inherited her father’s fortune in 1874, and was the richest woman in Britain. She married the future Prime Minister, Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, in 1878. Her charitable work was principally in the sphere of public health and causes associated with the welfare of working-class Jewish women in the poorer districts of London.
Within the last two decades, Saint Martin’s Gardens were restored and re-dedicated as a public garden on 10 June 2006 by the present Countess of Rosebery.
Today, the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome, Teacher of the Faith, 461 (10 November 2022).
Leo the Great became pope in the year 440 and twice proved his bravery in saving the citizens of Rome from the invading barbarians. He was an eloquent and wise preacher, using simple gospel texts to proclaim the Christian faith. His administrative skills were unrivalled and he used the resources of the Church for the good of the people. Rather than further confuse Christians by entering into the controversy over the person of Christ, Leo spoke simply of the humility of Christ who was divine and human in his compassion, uniting biblical images in prayer rather than dividing in debate. Leo died on this day in the year 461.
Later this morning, I have a medical appointment and tests for my B12 deficiency. But, before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.
Throughout this week, I am reflecting in these ways:
1, One of the readings for the morning;
2, A reflection based on TS Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land,’ first published 100 years ago, in 1922;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’
Luke 17: 20-25 (NRSVA):
20 Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’
22 Then he said to the disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 They will say to you, “Look there!” or “Look here!” Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.’
The Waste Land 4: ‘Death by Water’
TS Eliot published ‘The Waste Land’ in 1922, the same year as James Joyce published Ulysses. The poem includes well-known phrases such as ‘April is the cruellest month,’ and ‘I will show you fear in a handful of dust.’ Recent studies see in ‘The Waste Land’ a description of Eliot’s pilgrimage from the Unitarianism of his childhood to his life-lasting Anglo-Catholicism.
‘The Waste Land’, which I am reflecting on throughout this week, was first published 100 years ago at the end in 1922. It is a masterpiece of modern literature and one of the greatest poems in the English language. Its opening lines are often quoted, even by people who have never read all five sections and 434 lines of the poem.
‘The Waste Land’ was published in Eliot’s The Criterion in October 1922. It was then published in the US in the November issue of The Dial, and was published in book form in December 1922.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Waste Land in 1922, I am dipping in and out of the five sections of The Waste Land in this prayer diary each day this week. ‘The Waste Land’ is divided into five sections:
1, ‘The Burial of the Dead’, introduces the diverse themes of disillusionment and despair.
2, ‘A Game of Chess’, employs alternating narrations, in which vignettes of several characters address those themes experientially.
3, ‘The Fire Sermon’, offers a philosophical meditation in relation to the imagery of death and views of self-denial in juxtaposition, influenced by Augustine of Hippo and Eastern religions.
4, ‘Death by Water’, includes a brief lyrical petition.
5, ‘What the Thunder Said’, the culminating fifth section, concludes with an image of judgment.
At a mere ten lines, ‘Death by Water’ is the fourth and shortest of the five sections of ‘The Waste Land.’ Compare this with the section before it, ‘The Fire Sermon’, which is 234 lines and accounts for more than half the entire poem.
But ‘Death by Water’ is also the most organised and structured of the five sections of ‘The Waste Land.’ The alliteration and the deliberately archaic language also contribute to the serious, didactic feel of this section.
‘Death by Water’ describes Phlebas the Phoenician who has died, apparently by drowning. In death he has forgotten his worldly cares as the creatures of the sea have picked his body apart. The narrator asks his reader to consider Phlebas and recall his or her own mortality.
The original draft of ‘Death by Water’ was much longer, with Eliot’s draft involving a crew of men at sea and the ensuing shipwreck. It culminates in the description of the dead Phoenician sailor, Phlebas, which is the only surviving part of the original draft.
Trade and finance are part and parcel of ‘The Waste Land,’ with numerous financially significant allusions. When he was writing ‘The Waste Land’, Eliot was a clerk in Lloyd’s Bank in the City of London. Perhaps Phlebas the Phoenician is a trader too: in death, he forgets ‘profit and loss’.
Profit and loss; life and death. ‘Death by Water’ turns on pairings that are joined by ‘and’ or ‘or’, as if to suggest the bobbing of the waves … ‘gulls and sea’ … ‘profit and loss’ … ‘rose and fell’ … ‘age and youth’ … ‘Gentile or Jew’ … ‘handsome and tall’ … death renders immaterial all pairs of opposites or differences.
All opposites or differences are abolished for Christians too, for as the Apostle Paul says: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatian 3: 28).
Perhaps too in this passage Eliot is also contemplating his future conversion, when he turns from the Unitarianism of his childhood to Anglo-Catholicism, and his future Baptism, for Saint Paul describes the waters of Baptism and as death and rising to new life in Christ: ‘Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6: 4).
Death by Water, TS Eliot, ‘The Waste Land’
Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
Today’s Prayer (Thursday 10 November 2022):
God our Father,
who made your servant Leo strong in the defence of the faith:
fill your Church with the spirit of truth
that, guided by humility and governed by love,
she may prevail against the powers of evil;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The Post Communion Prayer:
God of truth,
whose Wisdom set her table
and invited us to eat the bread and drink the wine
of the kingdom:
help us to lay aside all foolishness
and to live and walk in the way of insight,
that we may come with Leo to the eternal feast of heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘A New Commandment.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Sue Claydon, chair of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship.
The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:
Strengthen us to stand for all that is just and true and right. We pray for the Anglican Peace and Justice Network.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org