One of the “ Treasures” of London.
We decided that a visit to Smithfield was in order. First on our list, St.Bartholomew-The-Great.
It’s supposed to be either the oldest church or one of the oldest churches in London founded in 1123. St. Bart’s is really special. It’s charming and we loved it! The church barely escaped the Great Fire of 1666. William Hogarth, the painter, (The Rake’s Progress among many others), was baptized here in 1697.
We were fortunate enough to be among only a handful of visitors that morning so the man at the door spent time telling us the history of the church and the surrounding area, including “The Golden Boy of Pye Corner,” aka “The Fat Boy”. The statue marks where the Great Fire of 1666 stopped. The plaque below the statue is rather interesting. “This boy is in memory put up for the late fire of London, occasion’d by the sin of gluttony!” Just around the corner from St. Bart’s is the St. Bartholomew Hospital that still bears the damage of bombs dropped in Zepplin raids during W.W. I and during the Blitz in W.W. II. He also pointed out an Elizabethan house, just behind the church that is the oldest, continuously lived in house in London. An interesting neighbourhood! The old Smithfield Meat Market is nearby too.
You might be interested to know that St. Bart’s is a bit of a “star” itself. It has hosted many film crews, including: Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Sherlock Holmes (2009), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), Amazing Grace (2006), Shakespeare In Love (1998) and Jude (1996). So, you just may have seen St. Bart’s already!
It’s crumbling a bit here and there, otherwise in pretty good shape considering! There is the Cloister Café in the 15th century cloister that seems to have “a good selection of fine wines, monastic beers, excellent coffee and delicious food.” You gotta love it when a church has a café that sells booze. None of that here in Vancouver, we just couldn’t be trusted!
Hopefully the funds raised from filming and the café will keep things in good repair. It’s a pretty special place.