Rahere Yesterday and Today cover graphic



Our Bishop; Mr. Noel McGrigor Phillips (patron of St. Bartholomew’s Church); the Revd. W. F. Gambier Sandwith (the late Rector); Lord Wakefield; Miss E. Werge-Oram, who wrote for the weal of the Church “The Acts of Rahere,” a devotional pageant; to the faithful officials supporting me at the Church; the deeply interested and helpful visitors from the other side of the Atlantic; our far-flung brothers and sisters south of the Equator; to all "Friends of St. Bartholomew," near and far, scattered over the British Empire; and to writers, workers, players and singers who have done so much, with reverence, skill and artistry, to portray in striking fashion the life work of our Founder, Rahere.









whose great good fortune it has been to be the successor of St. Wilfred of 674, at Hexham Abbey, and of Rahere, the loveable, yesterday and to-day, founder in 1123 of St. Bartholomew’s Priory Church.


Founders' tomb photograph This book has been compiled under much stress — the stress of an absorbing Church and parish, of a bewildering London, and the stress and anxiety of a domestic trial. Such things count with those who are kind, and most people administer the cup of cold water—that Holy Grail of human kindliness. It is an earnest and wholehearted appeal for support in the furtherance of the Memorial to the late Mr. Edward Alfred Webb, and of other works for the true weal of St. Bartholomew’s Priory Church. It has the unanimous approval of the Restoration Cornmittee and of the Parochial Church Council. Will you, in your goodness of heart, help us? It will be deeply appreciated.

If the appeal does not move you and you retain the book, will you kindly remit the sum of Five Shillings required for its production?

Please address your communications to :—
The Vestry, St. Bartholomew the Great,
Smithfield, London, E.C.I.



MR. F. W. T. HALL,
MR. E. W. FEARN, Deputy.



ON FEBRUARY 20th, 1930.

This meeting endorses the Appeal of the Rector in his sermon on February 9th, 1930, requests him to print and circulate it, and to take steps to provide funds and to appeal for Faculty as may be necessary for:
1. Erection of Sacristy in grateful memory of Edward Alfred Webb.
2. Installation of Electric lighting
3. Insertion of panels in Choir Screen, etc.
4. Removal of present Pulpit and the erection of another in the best position acoustically and otherwise, as may, after consideration, be thought a satisfactory solution. The new Pulpit to be associated with the name of Charlotte Hart.
5. A new piano for Choir training
6. The extinction of outstanding debt of £900. Also, that the Rector be the Honorary Treasurer of the Appeal.

Appended is the Estimate of our Architects. Sir Aston Webb and Son, for works under consideration :

To E. A. Webb Memorial £ 2,600 0s. 0d.
To Electric lighting £   700 0s. 0d.
To erection of new Pulpit, removal of present one
and erection of Gates in Screen 
£   400 0s. 0d.
To Panels on Screen £   320 0s. 0d.
To Screen decoration £   250 0s. 0d.
Existing debt £   900 0s. 0d.
Total £ 5,170 0s. 0d.
To restoration of Gatehouse (special) £ 1,000 0s. 0d.
To erection of another limb to Cloister* £15,000 0s. 0d.
* This last item not to be lost sight of, but in abeyance unless opportunity be forthcoming.

On the day of my Institution by the Bishop of London I fully realized three things to be tackled:

I. That the pulpit was unsuitable and most inconveniently placed.
II. That the system of lighting was inadequate and wrong.
III. That the Gatehouse ought to be conserved, and so treated as offices for the rector in order that he might be near his work.

Before the Bishop instituted me I mentioned I. and III. I urged his Lordship to give his address from the Sanctuary and not from the pulpit, so that his message might be best heard.

I stated how extremely anxious I was to make the Gatehouse sound and of real use in the Rector’s work for church and people. Inspection at the back of the house reveals its instability and unsatisfactory condition. A peep inside shows no better state of things. Its needs are a complete overhauling and reparation. I have never had any reason whatever to change my mind. Added days bring added confirmation.

This deeply interesting Gatehouse ought to be made decently habitable. Outside it is fair: within it smells of rats and rottenness, and is quite unstable, partly through anno domini and neglect, partly owing to the air-raid. Unquestionably, it might be converted into a suitable pied-a-terre for the Rector, who would then be near his workshop.

This Gatehouse is not in the original scheme, but it is of real moment.

Who will come forward, in their kind interest and generosity, to make it such, and to present a worthy gift which could be a real benefaction?

In 1886, when the Revd. W. Panckridge was Rector, Sir Aston Webb called attention to the great annoyance caused by the existence of the boys’ school in the North Triforium, as well as the forge in the North Transept, which was a source of continual danger to the church from fire. Both institutions have been abolished, but there is still much to be done, for it is not that St. Bartholomew’s has been battered by the storm and stress of long centuries, but rather that indifference and lethargy have wrought irreparable disaster.

For instance, the 12th Century Nave is now a disused graveyard and with great offices standing on the site of the Western front.
Do we not to-day owe a present debt of monetary gifts and tender care to make some reparation for a long spell of ignoble neglect?





Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great

Prior Rahere's Quire

It seems almost unkind, at this time, to make mention of Rahere in connection with a Church. To-day it seems as though a Royal Hospital, rather than a Royal Church, needs the monopoly of Rahere, “more of a priest than a fool, and more of a wizard than either.” Assuredly his is a name to conjure with in an appeal for the good work of the poor, be they sick or sorry in body or soul.

The Authorities of the Royal Hospital of St. Bartholomew make a most appeal for One Million Pounds. They do well to make full use of the magic name of Rahere. They need every penny of the Million. May Rahere stand by them and help them, until the desired sum be realised!

We, in this place, congratulate the Hospital which he founded on their great venture of faith. May this appeal, launched by the oldest hospital in the British Empire, come to a completely successful issue, for, in every way, it is worthy and heartily to be commended.

Far be it from me to enter into any competition or to militate in any way against their success. As a humble follower and most unworthy successor of the valiant Rahere in this his Church, built for the glory of God, I cannot be indifferent to the appeal of his Hospital. It is my duty and privilege to serve that appeal as best I may and can. A million pounds is a large amount, but surgery, medicine and reserves demand that it be endowed not merely with antiquity, but with perpetual youth and vigour. In every branch of hospital work its maintenance is imperative. But little though I can do, that little I mean to do well. One like myself, so near to it all, cannot fail to be drawn towards the hospital which has carried on Rahere’s work so splendidly for eight hundred years. Even if eyes were blind and ears deaf the heart would still urge me to do that which inclination, conscience and vocation most impressively demand.

Ich Dien. I cannot, and would not, do otherwise: those which God hath joined together shall not by me be separated. Besides, the Hospital is, I feel sure, generous enough, even in the time of stress and effort, not to claim an exclusive monopoly of their Founder and ours. He is big enough to be mindful both of his hospital and of his spiritual home for the glory of God.

We, in his Church, have our needs too, and we venture to make a claim. It is comparatively insignificant ; and we shall show restraint, so as not in any way to be reckoned as rivals or obstructors.

I have a definite duty to perform. It is my privilege and burdensome responsibility to be the successor of rectors who have given of their best, at no little cost to health and strength, in conserving and restoring the Church. The names of rectors Sandwith, Savory, Panckridge, and others, are writ large and indelibly on the walls of this ancient building.

After the inglorious spell of indifference, neglect and vandalism of Georgian and Victorian days, the Church now raises our thoughts, as it was ever meant to do, from the meanness of this material world to the duty of man to his God. The Church to-day is resonant with thanks to those to whom it owes its re-awakening. It is our part to see that, not only there is no reaction to the appalling lethargy of those decadent days, but that it is vocal with all good things to-day.

Memorial to Edward Alfred Webb

Another name there is which stands out resplendent in our long-drawn history, and will shine so long as one stone is upon another. He is no prior or priest, but a humble-minded layman who, with the exception of Rahere and Prior Thomas, compares in full measure with any prior or priest. I can only refer to Mr. E. A. Webb, who passed to his well-earned rest last year. We can make a wholesome boast of godly laymen who loved this Church and served with him. The association of Webb and Irons was a timely and beneficent one. Our present Wardens, Mr. W. E. G. Sparling and Mr. F. W. T. Hall, and their colleague, Mr. E. W. Fearn, have had prolonged association in work and interest with St. Bartholomew’s.

The backwash of our history for a long spell before then was prolonged and unedifying. That London’s masterpiece in stone -- this glorious architectural epic -- stands as you see it to-day, is due in no small measure to Mr. E. A. Webb. Every stone he knew and loved with a lowly reverence. If we lived in mean days and were in ourselves mean and niggardly, it would suffice us to say that this Church itself is his memorial. Such things are not enough for his own kith and kin, for those who loved and respected him for his constant consideration and monumental work for the Church he so devotedly loved. Nothing can be more fitting than that the opportunity be given for a memorial of him and his work, and, moreover, one which would have his whole-hearted approval.

Drawing of sacristy door

Sacristy Memorial?

A suggestion has been made that it should take shape in the erection of the Sacristy -- clergy vestry. Is it needed? When I visit the commodious and, in some places, the almost luxurious vestries of other City churches, it is hard, when I think of the store-room vestry of St. Bartholomew's, not to break the tenth Commandment. Our present vestry is merely a passage from the verger's house to the church. It has just room enough for one man to robe. One has a feeling of shame in allowing any preacher to enter it, and one wearies of making monotonous apologies. As a passage it is necessary. That let it be, and also a spacious store-cupboard. But as an adjunct of the Church is it a vulgar caricature.

Fortunately, the ancient Sacristy and its position is not a matter of controversy. There is no doubt that the primitive arched doorway, at the junction of ambulatory and South Transept with the choir aisle, near the font, is the entrance to the Sacristy destroyed by Henry VIII. Its uses have been many and various. About 1600 it was converted into a Dissenters' Meeting House. Complaint was made, at that time, of a very antique sculpture representing "the figure of a popish priest with a child in his arms...and the same sort of trumpery." In reality, it represented the aged Simeon with the Infant Saviour of the World in his arms. So blind and foolish is bigotry! The beautiful building was apparently enriched with sculptured figures and wall paintings. In 1809 its use was a store-room for hops, logs and mahogany, etc. As a carpenter's shop, it was destroyed by fire in 1830. It is now a churchyard, and it has exposed to London's atmosphere the foundations of an altar -- the work of Rahere himself. To cover Rahere's altar foundations is urgent.

In very truth, St. Bartholomew's Priory Church is --

"An ancient pile
To various fates assigned; and where, by turns,
Meanness and grandeur have alternate reigned."

Still, thank God! it is London's pride, and London, at any rate, with its myriad lives and interests, will not be untouchable or indifferent to our commendable appeal for Rahere's church.

Blacksmith's forge in north transept

Uniform System of Lighting

In my first sermon here, I made complaint of the dim, unpleasing, and quite unsatisfactory lighting of the Church. A midwinter can only confirm a midsummer's dirge. Personally, I have only a very qualified sympathy with candle-light infatuation which, so far as this Church is concerned, is snuffed out on familiarity. It is neither artistic nor illuminating. It obscures and does not reveal.

It conceals the beauty and glory of one of the most wondrous Norman choirs of England and does not enhance. Thank God, we have eyes to see, and, where there is beauty, we would see it. The sooty, blackening fumes of dear old London have darkened and dimmed (and still do so) our fascinating architecture. Ours is not the atmosphere of the translucent Acropolis. In the earlier days the Church abounded in colour. Chiaroscuro obscured in an absurdity. An increasing number of visitors come to see glories of which they have heard from afar. On not a few days of the year the Church is revealed as an opaque mass. A vivid imagination gives but scant help. They have to go away believing what they do not see. Credulous faith!
Norman choir

Moreover, our candles are so placed that, looking from west to east, they mar lines, -- screen beauty. More than once, I have seen streaks of candle grease from spluttering candles on coat and cloak. Our so-called gas illumination is almost an abomination. The necessary and scattered incandescent jets with unsightly globes obtrude themselves with utter ugliness. Dark by night, and, too often, dark by day. You, who know the Church, can only confirm my words.

St. Bartholomew's is not merely for sightseers. It is for worship. In the services of the Church we desire to see, in order to be able to read hymn-books, Prayer Books and Bibles. To do this by day is a rare matter, by night an impossibility. When sermons are dull, it is right to lift up our eyes and read and digest more inspiring ones in the stones which, unconsciously teaching, publish sweet messages of comfort and joy, of peace and faith, hope and love, garnered from this place. They have published the story of the Cross through over 800 years, and seem to say --

"In the Cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o'er the wrecks of Time."

The weary world rests its gaze upon the crystal clear, symmetrically lovely, ineffably magnetic life of the Son of Man. We have the exuberance of joy bubbling forth from some of our carved architectural gems which are only visible on a few days in the year. The builder did his work with this exuberance for "he was glad in the House of the Lord."

This church is rich in ambulatories and vistas so well adapted for those processions which the Canons loved, and is almost unique. The beauty of our ambulatories bewilders us. What memories they recall! As one passes through them in procession, one feels that the spirits of holy men hover around us and join with us in song. Every Sunday, as our choir sings psalm and hymn through these dim, unlighted arches, unable to read a word of the service, I regard their work as a real triumph. In their choir stalls, the place where they sing, it often puzzles me how they can sing at all, so darksome is it. Is is the same in the Lady Chapel at other services. My parishoners say (what avails it to say?) "We cannot join in the hymns or prayers for we cannot read a word." They who know me would say (and it could be true) that I would rather cease to be rector than be guilty of playing any tricks with this building. My eyesight is extremely good and much above the average, and I can rarely with love and comfort read the Services of the Church from my stall.

I say boldly that the present state of lighting this Church is unsatisfactory, inefficient, harmful to fabric, unedifying and unworthy. We need a uniform system of lighting. I am sure that electricity could be so installed that the glory of our architecture would be made manifest and enhanced, that it would tend to edification in worship, to the cleanliness and conservation fo the fabric and ensure much saving of profitless labour.

I am advised on very high authority, which cannot be ignored, that the sooner electric lighting is installed and the Church thoroughly spring cleaned from end to end, the better for our precious fabric, which is more delicate than its rugged character indicates. The right place for accumulated dust is outside the Church.

In mediaeval times, London's atmosphere was not what it is to-day. The Church was rich in colour from painting and fresco. Each Canon carried his taper, and was familiar with the offices. Our stones do not need grimness to enhance their beauty. We prefer ancient days to dirt, and cleanliness to stupidity. In a word -- "More light." If so, electric light. Is the obstacle to such a need to be the cost? I cannot believe it.

Additions to Screen

Our Patron, Mr. Ivor Phillips and his forebears, whether priests or laymen, have shown a generous interest in this wonderful Church. To them, their friends, and our parishoners, we owe our handsome screen. Members of our choir (for they are human and are not immune from incapacitating chills) make some complaint of the draught from the entrance porches which in greater or less degree forces its current through the open panels. For our sakes, as well as theirs, it is well to protect our singers from colds, coughs and sore throats. Can we help the efficiency of our choir? I venture to suggest that we should do this and, in so doing, add to the beauty and interest of the Church. We mgiht insert glass panels; draughts would thus be excluded, but we should still look through to a blank, ugly, and comparatively modern wall, devoid of interesting features.

I should like to see the insertion of painted panels, which might illustrate crucial incidents of the story of Rahere's strange, eventful and consecrated life. The "Acts of Rahere" could be recorded: -- At the Court of King Henry I, as Master of the Revels; the shipwreck; his illness, agony and conversion; the vision of St. Bartholomew; his meeting with the King; the granting of the Royal Charter; the building of Church and Hospital.

Such panels would remind us of the sort of man our Founder was. They might be an inspiration to us and to all who visit the Church, and would serve to show modern builders, artists and architects what they so lamentably need to learn, how utterly devoid of vision most of them are in their handiwork. Thus we should not forget that it is to Rahere we owe the beauty around us in the Church, beauty which points to God. We hardly dare, walking through London to-day, to raise our eyes lest we see atrocities in buildings and monuments, which shame and humiliate us. We long for men of such vision as our Founder, to tell us how to choose and shape stone, how to tool and how to place one upon another with reverence, as a gift to God, for the goodwill of man.

I am not without hope, for I am no pessimist, that these panels may be the gift of individuals. Possibly, memorial gifts. In some of these stalls, there are small brass plates, marking the seat of the chorister who took his part in leading holy song here, who served in the Great War, and for whom the trumpets of heaven sounded, as he passed over to the other side. Thank God, heaven will be heaven, for it is built out of souls like these; and Rahere will be there -- all with the Christ they followed.


The organist and choir stand in sore need of a piano for choir practices, in place of the present instrument.

New Pulpit

I, in conjunction with unanimous votes of the Restoration Committee and of the Parochial Church Council, strongly urge a new pulpit. The present one is unsuitable in more ways than one. It destroys the line of the wondrous Norman arcading, it takes up some of the best space in the Church, and it is in the worst possible acoustic position. It is in harmony with nothing. We have decided to make appeal for a new pulpit, to be associated with the memory of Charlotte Hart. It will cost as per estimate.

The architects, Sir Aston Webb & Son, fully concur, and their proposal is to erect a new pulpit in a position which will enable the preacher's voice and message to be heard clearly all over the Church, which is far from being the case as present. We are taking counsel of leading actors and singers in this matter.

Existent Debt

I have one -- and only one -- unpleasant statement to make. There is a prolonged outstanding debt of £900 consequent on the building of the Cloister. The contractors have been more than generous in allowing a silent and uncomplaining extension of our indebtedness, some years overdue. It is unworthy to take advantage of such generosity, however much we may appreciate it. We hate debt, and Church debt we hate most, for it is a debt to God, to Whom we owe all good things. Debt is a millstone; we must remove the burden as, otherwise, we cannot stand erect.

[To be continued...]

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