The Watts Church Crawl (Part the 21st) Monument

Continuing along our way, we arrive at Monument, which is well deserving of the capital letter. The station itself is a rabbit warren, being as it is in fact two stations joined together by an escalator, the other station being Bank, voted the Tube’s worst station by a YouGov Poll in 2013, although it is home to one end of the Waterloo and City Line: a tube line consisting of two stops: Waterloo and Bank, which was described as “Less a Tube line, and more a conceptual art project.” It truly is a horrible place to change trains. The diagram below might go some way to proving why it is so ghastly.

Monument, so long as you stick to the District and Circle, is a reasonable station: and you emerge on to London Bridge, which is nice. The roundels of the station are supported by the City’s Griffin, as are the roundels at Bank. The station was first opened as East Cheapside in October 1884, before changing it’s name to Monument less than a month later.

The station is of course named after the Monument, which stands outside the station. It was constructed as a memorial of the Great Fire of London (hence the shock of gold flames at the top). It was constructed by Wren, in partnership with Hooke, but who had the most creative input, we do not know. It is a triumph of geometry in the face of adversity, as the height of it is exactly the same as the distance from the Monument to the site of the start of the great fire at Pudding Lane. All this without a slide rule.


The distinctive gold flames were not the first serious idea: initially it was to have a statue of King Charles II atop it, but he disliked the idea, pointing out “I didn’t start the fire”.

In fact much of the original wording on the sides of the Monument, charting the history of the fire of London, pins the blame on Catholics in the city, which was manifestly untrue, and led Alexander Pope to write these words:


Where London’s column, pointing at the skies,
Like a tall bully, lifts the head, and lies.


Charles Dickens, in Martin Chuzzelwhit also described it thus:

if the day were bright, you observed upon the house–tops, stretching far away, a long dark path; the shadow of the Monument; and turning round, the tall original was close beside you, with every hair erect upon his golden head, as if the doings of the city frightened him


Interestingly, as well as being a memorial to “that dreadful visitation”, it also had a practical purpose: the inside of the Monument is hollow, with a staircase (and indeed, for the price of £3 (concessions £2), you can climb the 311 steps, and see a stunning view of London). It was initially intended to double as a laboratory (in the basement), and a telescope was intended to emerge from the top of the monument, not really surprising, given that Brooke was a physicist of considerable note. Sadly, due to vibrations of traffic on Fish Street Hill, the laboratory was rendered useless. It is still there though.

If we proceed down Fish Street Hill, we come to one of former bastions of Anglo-Papalism, and still a great shrine of Anglo-Catholicism: St. Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge.

The Rector, from 1921 to1959, was none other than Fr. Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton, inveterate founder of devotional societies and religious communities. He commissioned Martin Travers to further beautify Wren’s church of St. Magnus, already in the classical style, and make it appear as though the reformation had never happened. It is one of Travers’ most successful works, adding a Rood to the top of the reredos, which he expanded, and also put in panels with the ten commandments and the creed, along with two pictures. Also added were two side Altars, made out of door casings, which seem almost incongruous, as well as deeply baroque. There is also a memorial which was turned into an image of Veronica’s towel, and a tabernacle for a relic of the True Cross.

The church also receives a mention in T.S. Eliot’s the Wasteland:

This music crept by me upon the waters
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.
O City City, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,
The pleasant whining of a mandoline
And a clatter and a chatter from within
Where fishman lounge at noon: where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.


T.S. Eliot was a regular worshipper there. Another, very different, but equally, or more remarkable, linguist who is connected with the church is Miles Coverdale, who is buried under the east wall.

The church also has a long connection (as all the city churches do) with various of the city’s livery companies, most notably the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, being as it is down by the river. The windows in the north aisle are given over to coats of arms of various livery companies, and in the eastern most window, the arms of the Fraternity of Our Lady de Salve Regina, a mediaeval fraternity dedicated to keeping a lamp burning before the image of Our Lady, and also to the daily recitation of the Salve Regina, which is maintained to this day.



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