Saturday, 3 May 2014

In search of Bow Bells - part 1

Whilst we had two grandchildren with us we visited the Olympic Park.  This has recently been opened to the public. Our visit was during the Easter school holidays and the day was sunny so it was heaving with kids. Decided today to revisit the Olympic Park without the children.
We are now moored at Little Venice so we jumped on 205 bus to Bow Church intending to walk down to Three Mills and enter the park from the west. The journey takes over an hour but is quite an interesting ride.  However our journey stopped at Marylebone Station, barely 5 minutes long! The driver had not noticed that one of the upstairs windows had been smashed and so the journey was terminated and we had to join the next bus. There did not appear to be any broken glass around so the mystery was when the breakage had occurred.

Our resumed journey terminated opposite the Bow Bells  pub in Bromley-by-Bow. This awakened our childhood memories of a playground game involving a rhyme - Oranges and Lemons.

"Oranges and lemons" say the bells of St. Clement's
"You owe me five farthings" say the bells of St. Martin's
"When will you pay me?" say the bells of Old Bailey
"When I grow rich" say the bells of Shoreditch
"When will that be?" say the bells of Stepney
"I do not know" say the great bells of Bow
"Here comes a candle to light you to bed
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head
Chip chop chip chop - the last man's dead."
The game involved parading under an arch created by two children and not being caught when their arms descended to cut of your head.
So let's go and look at this church with the Great bell of Bow . 

As we turned to make our way we were  stopped in our tracks by Poplar Town Hall: not by its ugliness but by the interesting mosaic on the porch.

The scene depicts the Thames and the trades which thrived along it.

Hidden away inside this unwelcoming edifice is a cafe which serves a very reasonable bacon sarnie and coffee but I guess that only the council employees are aware of it. (and us)
Suitably refreshed we set off once more and soon came across Bow Church where we stopped to view the famous Bow Bells.
Built in 1311 and enlarged to its present size in 1490, it sits in the middle of the road.
In 1802 the rector was Samuel Henshall whose claim to fame is for taking out the first patent in the world for an improved corkscrew.
 Over the centuries to 1900 St. Mary's atte Bow as it was known suffered the usual ravages of time resulting in its architectural split personality.
The stained glass behind the alter is devoid of the usual religious images and keeps the congregation busy trying to find all the animals secreted in the design.
So let's find this bell..........

well, the belfry is easy enough to find but now access to the bells.

Disappointed, we left the church to continue our original plan to visit the Olympic Park. glancing at the parish notices in the  porch we found a handwritten note explaining that this was not the church in the rhyme. That was St. Mary's by Bow in Cheapside which is also famous for authenticating the Cockney status as anyone born within the sound of its bell qualifies as such.

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