vol II date / index
St. Marcellus, the Centurion, A. D. 298. St. Germanus, Bp. of Capua, A. D. 540. St. Asterius, Bp. of Amasea in Pontus, A. D. 400.
ST. KATHARINE'S BY THE TOWER.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.
Oct. 29, 1825.
The ancient and beautiful collegiate church of St. Katharine finally closes tomorrow, previous to its demolition by the St. Katharine's dock company. The destruction of an edifice of such antiquity, one of the very few that escaped the great fire of 1666, has excited much public attention. I hope, therefore, that the subject will not be lost sight of in your Every-Day Book. Numbers of the nobility and gentry, who, notwithstanding an earnest appeal was made to them, left the sacred pile to its fate, have lately visited it. In fact, for the beauty and simplicity of its architecture, it has scarcely a rival in London, excepting the Temple church: the interior is ornamented with various specimens of ancient carving; a costly monument of the duke of Exeter, and various others of an interesting kind. This interesting fabric has been sacrificed by the present chapter, consisting of the master, sir Herbert Taylor, three brethren chaplains, and three sisters, to a new dock company, who have no doubt paid them handsomely for sanctioning the pulling down of the church, the violation of the graves, and the turning of hundreds of poor deserving people out of their homes; their plea is, that they have paid the chapter. I hope, sir, you will pardon the liberty I have taken in troubling you with these particulars; and that you will not forget poor Old Kate, deserted as she is by those whose duty it was to have supported her.
Your obedient servant,
A NATIVE OF THE PRECINCT.
P. S. There is no more occasion for these docks than for one at the foot of Ludgate-hill.
The purpose of this correspondent may be answered, perhaps, by publishing his well-founded lamentation over the final dissolution of his church; his call upon me could not be declined. I did not get his note till the very hour that the service was commencing, and hurried from Ludgate-hill to the ancient "collegiate church of St. Katharine's by the Tower," where I arrived just before the conclusion of prayers. Numbers unable to get accomodation among the crowd within, were coming from the place; but "where there's a will there's a way," and I contrived to gain a passage to the chancel, and was ultimately conducted to a seat in a pew just as the rev. R. R. Bailey, resident chaplain of the tower, ascended the curious old pulpit of this remarkable structure. This gentleman, whose "History of the Tower" is well known to topographers and antiquaries, appropriately selected for his text, "Go to now, ye that say, to-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell and get gain." (James iv. 13.) He discoursed of the frailty of man's purpose, and the insecurity of his institutions, and enjoined hope and reliance on Him whose order ordained and preserves the world in its mutations. He spoke of the "unfeeling and encroaching hand of commerce," which had rudely seized on the venerable fabric, wherein no more shall be said—
"Lord, how delightful 'tis to see,
A whole assembly worship thee."
To some of the many present the building was endeared by locality, and its burial ground was sacred earth. Yet from thence the bones of their kindred were to be expelled, and the foundations of the edifice swept away. For eight centuries the site had been undisturbed, save for the reception of the departed from the world—for him whose friends claimed that there "the servant should be free from his master," or for the opulent, who, in his end, was needy as the needy, and required only "a little, little grave." Yet the very chambers of the dead were to be razed, and the remains of mortality dispersed, and a standing water was to be in their stead. The preacher, in sad remembrance, briefly, but strongly, touched on the coming demolition of the fane, and there were those among the congregation who deeply sorrowed. On the features of an elderly inhabitant opposite to me, there was a convulsive twitching, while, with his head thrown back, he watched the preacher's lips, and the big tear sprung from his eyes; and the partner of his long life leaned forward and wept; the bosoms of their daughters rose and fell in grief; matrons and virgins sobbed; manly hearts were swollen, and strong men were bowed.
After the sermon "sixty poor children of the precinct," for whose benefit it was preached—it was the last office that could be celebrated in their behalf—sung a hymn to the magnificent organ, which, on the morrow, was to be pulled down. They choralled in tender tones—
"Great God, O! hear our humble song,
An off'ring to thy praise,
O! guard our tender youth from wrong,
And keep us in thy ways!"
These were the offspring of a neighbournood of ill fame, whence, by liberal hands, they had been plucked and preserved as brands from the burning fire. It seemed as though they were about to be scattered from the fold wherein they had been folded and kept.
While the destruction of this edifice was contemplated, the purpose gave rise to remonstrance; but resistance was quelled by the applications, which are usually successful in such cases. "An Earnest Appeal to the Lords and Commons in Parliament, by a Clergyman," was ineffectually printed and circulated with the hope of preventing the act. This little tract says:—
"The collegiate body to whom the church and precinct pertain, and who have not always been so insensible to the nobler principles they now abandon, owe their origin to Maud, wife of king Stephen—their present constitution to Eleanor, wife of king Henry III.—and their exemption from the general dissolution in the time of Henry VIII. to the attractions (it is said) of Anne Boleyn. The queens' consort have from the first been patronesses, and on a vacancy of the crown matrimonial, the kings of England. The fabric for which, in default of its retained advocates, I have ventured not to plead, is of the age of king Edward III., lofty and well-proportioned, rich in ancient carving, adorned with effigies of a Holland, a Stafford, a Montacute, all allied to the blood royal, and in spite of successive mutilations is well able to plead for itself: surely then, for its own sake, as well as for the general interests involved in its preservation, it is not too much to ask, that it may, at least, be confronted with those who wish its destruction—that its obscure location may not cause its condemnation unseen—that no one will pass sentence who has not visited the spot, and that, having so done, he will suffer the unbiassed dictates of his own heart to decide."
Mixen Agaric. Agaricus fimetarius.
Dedicated to St. Marcellus.