Spires, Sacred & Profane

Southwark Cathedral and the Shard

14.52 pm Sunday 30th August, 2012

For Good Friday, a photo from the archives.

Tucked away south of the River Thames and without the razzmatazz or grandeur of Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral, you can find a hidden gem. Cheek-by-Jowl with London Bridge, Borough Market, and a handful of cracking unspoilt pubs, lies a church in the shadow of The Shard which dates back to the 12th century, although the current Victorian Gothic structure mainly dates from a restoration in the 19th century. Tragically, at this most significant point in the Christian calendar, Southwark Cathedral is closed over the Easter weekend because of the Covid-19 lockdown, but services are being streamed on line for worshippers

It was a parish church until 1905 when the new Diocese of Southwark was created, and the former Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie became Southwark Cathedral. It includes the famous memorial to William Shakespeare whose plays were performed in the Globe Theatre nearby.

In 1885, St Saviour’s hosted a memorial service for Alice Ayres, a young woman who died from injuries incurred while rescuing children from a local fire. This event caught the public imagination and the crowds were so great that many were unable to enter the building to attend. Alice’s death is commemorated in one of the plaques in Postman’s Park, and has been extensively reported elsewhere, although Alice is actually buried in Isleworth where she was born.

There are more themes spinning out of this photo than I can deal with here so I’ll to return to these themes on another occasion.