Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Walking SE1 (1): Trinity Church Square

Rambling a little further afield than the New Cross, Deptford, Brockley Transpontine heartland, the first in a new series of wanderings through SE1 (who knows maybe eventually I will get to wander all the streets in the SE postcode area, but that may take some time).

Anyway to start with here's Holy Trinity Church, in Trinty Church Square in Borough (historically known as Trinity Square). Built in the 1820s it has been out of use as a Church since the 1960s and is now the home of Henry Wood Hall, a rehearsal and recording space for the London Philharmonic and other orchestras. Among the musical luminaries who have used its facilities are Leonard Bernstein and György Ligeti.

The statue in the foreground has some interesting folklore. I have read the tale several times that it is the oldest statue in London, a medieval depiction of King Alfred the Great moved to the square from Westminster Hall. However an alternative theory has recently been put forward that it was in fact the work of the sculptor James Bubb and was made at a similar time to the construction of the church (i.e. 1820s).

The arguments are quite convincing, namely that it is the wrong shape and material to be one of the Westminster Hall 14th century statues. The 'oldest statue in London' theory seems to date back to the 1920s - a 1911 survey of Royal statues in London mentions it as the only London statue of an early English king, but makes no claims for its antiquity. Indeed it was stated at the time that the oldest statue in London was actually of Queen Elizabeth, in St Dunstans Church, Fleet Street (report of a lecture on London statues by FW Hill, Ottowa Citizen, 17 April 1911).

Trinity Square was developed at the same time as the Church by Trinity House, the body responsible for lighthouses. Indeed rent and other income from the square is a significant source of revenue for the lighthouse authority. The body had its origins in Deptford - indeed its full name is the 'Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond'. But that's another story.

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