Tea and Cake and Quiet London (2)

From the peace and shade of the Bonnington Square Garden we headed for nearby Newport Street (SE11) and The Ragged Canteen at Beaconsfield (QL p.115). However when we arrived we found that it is closed for most of August. On our way there we had passed through what was left of the original Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and we had noticed a very nice tea shop with a buzz of friendly chatter and gentle music coming through the wide open doors and windows (it was a very hot day), so we decided to turn back and take our afternoon break there. It turned out to be an excellent choice despite not being Quiet; there’s a classical guitarist strumming gently in the corner.

The Tea House Theatre

Inside The Tea House Theatre

This book stood on a chair by the door.

Refreshed, we strolled along the Albert Embankment to The London Eye where we met huge milling crowds and quickly bought tickets for the Thames Clipper service to take us back down the river to Tower Pier, a short walk from our hotel.

We chose and booked a Quiet restaurant for our evening meal : Carnevale near The Barbican (QL p. 91). After an hour or so in which to refresh ourselves we then walked the mile or so to and from the restaurant. We marvelled at the height of so many buildings, the almost hidden churches and all the new work that seemed to be going on in order to cram this city with even more curiously shaped high buildings. On our way back we noticed that one of the hidden churches was still open so we peeped inside at the exhibition “This is not a Plate : your heritage, your language, your culture“. St Ethelburga’s Church (QL p. 66) is a centre for peace and the exhibition and late opening were to coincide with the London 2012 Olympic Games.

This is not a Plate display

“Following devastation by the IRA bomb in 1993, this small 700 year old church has been transformed into a centre for peace and reconciliation. Not only are services still held here, meditation sessions are also offered once a week. In the pebbled courtyard visitors can enter a Middle Eastern Bedouin tent made of woven goats hair – a special place for anyone seeking quiet contemplation.” [QL p. 66]

It kind of rounded off our hot and dusty day very serenely.

Sunday was another hot and sunny day but despite this we had decided to participate in one of The London Walks “The Old Jewish Quarter” departing from nearby Tower Hill at 10.30am. Perfect.

“This walk traces the history of London’s Jewish community in the East End. It’s a story that embraces the poverty of the pogrom refugees and the glittering success of the Rothschilds; the eloquence of the 19th-century Prime Minister Disraeli and the spiel of the Petticoat Lane stallholder; the poetry of Isaac Rosenberg and the poetry-in-motion of Abe Saperstein’s Harlem Globetrotters. Set amid the alleys and back streets of colourful Spitalfields and Whitechapel, it’s a tale of synagogues and sweatshops, Sephardim and soup kitchens. Guided by Shaughan.” [From the London Walks leaflet]

Lo and behold the highlight of this walk is a visit to The Bevis Marks Syngogue (QL p. 65) where Maurice took over from Shaughan to tell us more about the synagogue and its former members.

“Thanks to Oliver Cromwell, Jews in England could practice their own religion openly for the first time since the Middle Ages. In 1657, a Quaker builder was invited to build this London synagogue and it was completed in 1701. (He later returned all profits from its construction to the Jewish community). Bevis Marks is the oldest synagogue in Britain and has barely changed since the early 18th century. In the main room of the synagogue hang seven ornate brass candelabra, one for each day of the week, but overall, with its original wooden seating and simple balconies, the interior is very simple and unadorned.” [QL p. 65]

The walk finished just by Christ Church Spitalfields so we made our way down Commercial Street to Whitechapel Art Gallery. There’s a cafe serving quiches and salad, sausage rolls, Scotch eggs and cookies and cakes – all homemade. After a bite to eat and a cup of tea we found we had time to see one exhibit and we chose “Government Art Collection: Commissions: Now and Then” and “The Story of the Government Art Collection” a fascinating insight into art in public/government ownership.

“It was the cost of decoration that prompted the use of art instead of wallpapers to cover the walls of government buildings in 1899. Today the Government Art Collection is one of the most important collections of British art, with 13,500 works dating from the 16th century to the present day displayed in over 420 government buildings worldwide.

On display for the first time from the Collection’s archives are rare documents, such as papers detailing the loan of Winston Churchill’s bust to the Oval Office in Washington from 1997 to 2008, and records of paintings hung in 10 Downing Street under Prime Ministers from the first Duke of Wellington to Margaret Thatcher. A 1962 document records artist William Coldstream’s proposal that the Whitechapel Gallery hold an exhibition of the Collection, while a World War II photograph shows the bomb damage to the State Rooms at 10 Downing Street.” [Whitechapel Art Gallery promotional literature]

A Quiet Weekend with Tea and Cake and much more besides!

2 comments on “Tea and Cake and Quiet London (2)

  1. ms6282 says:

    A couple of interesting posts about London. I really like how you manage to find different, less well known, places to visit.

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