Another very bustling, very busy station; the gateway to East Anglia. It has had something of a checkered history since its opening. It replaced an earlier station (Bishopsgate) in 1874, which had been destroyed by fire shortly before. It is built on a previous site of the Hospital of St. Mary Bethlehem, or Bedlam, as it is more generally known. It was the first place in London to receive a direct hit during the First World War, killing 162 people. It boasts a very fine war memorial dating from 1922. It was also damaged during the Second World War, when a bomb landed in nearby Bishopsgate. It was later damaged in an IRA attack on a Saturday morning in 1988; thankfully, as it was a Saturday morning, casualties were low, though there was one fatality: a reporter from the News of the World, who refused to obey the police cordon in operation at the time. Looking at the circle line, during the 7/7 bombings in 2005, a train was blown up leaving Liverpool Street for Aldgate, which killed 7. Recent excavations for the new Crossrail project also revealed one of the most diverse graveyards ever found: young, old, rich, poor, plague victims and patients from Bedlam were all to be found there.
A somewhat checkered history.
The station, post-war, fell into a somewhat sorry state, “dark, dilapidated and dank, whilst evocative of another age”. It was given a facelift in the late 80s, and is now much as we see it now. The central concourse is very fine, and the main entrance boasts a pair of beautifully proportioned towers. Due to the many high rise buildings around, the station ends up being somewhat dwarfed, and it is difficult to take time to take in the architecture. Looking up at the fine latticed iron work would probably result in getting trampled.
St. Mary Moorfields
The church we are going to look at is the Catholic church of St. Mary Moorfields. It is not the easiest of places to locate, and if you told the architect this he would be well pleased: it is designed to be discreet and subtle, being built at a time when anti-Catholic sentiments were rife. Though if you stand on the opposite side of the road, you will see the clues are there: over the portico there is an image of the virgin and child, faintly redolent of that over the door of St. Mary’s, Oxford, surrounded with a couple of cherubs and some scroll work. This is a place where the Gothic Revival did not catch on, even though the church was built in 1903 (interestingly its great counter part, Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane built a couple of decades previously is very definitely Gothic, ). The rectory is built over the church, and adds to its unchurchy nature, as do the two shops either side. There also some fine sculptings of scenes from the life of Our Lady.
Going through the grey stone portico, we go down a small set of stairs, through glass then wooden doors into an interior strong in interior lighting, because there is so little natural lighting. The interior is wood pannelled, and is dominated by the 6 pillars in the sanctuary, together with the High Altar (originally designed as Cardinal Manning’s tomb), all taken from the previous church, together with several other fittings, which go a long to way to giving the place its very classical look. It has a fine barrel ceiling, and a very intimate atmosphere, very different from the madness outside. It is open all day too, with a fairly constant stream of visitors of all walks of life, of which the banks of lamps and candles before the images of the saints are a testimony.
Spanish & Portugese Synagogue off Bevis Marks
A most remarkable place, the only synagogue in Europe that boasts 300 years of continuous worship, built in 1699, and, with one or two minor changes (such as doors to the wardens’ pews), it remains much as it first looked when it was completed in 1701. It is very reminiscent of Wren’s churches in certain aspects: the Ark of the Torah puts one strongly in mind of a Wren reredos (Cf St. Magnus the Martyr London Bridge). One of the brass chandeliers as well as several other fittings were gifts from the Amsterdam Synagogue, with whom this synagogue has a very long standing friendship. There are also several fittings, including some of the pews which came from the older Creechurch Lane synagogue when the community moved from there to Bevis Marks. Queen Anne gave one of the main supporting beams of the building.
They have a very sophisticated looking website, which well repays a visit.