Saturday, 1st July, 2023

Our day started with a visit to the Postal Museum. This includes a ride on a short section of the London Post Office Railway. This was an underground railway that ran for over 10km between Paddington and Whitechapel. It was a narrow gauge railway with driverless trains which moved mail between a number of mail sorting centres. It was opened in 1926 and closed in 2003. Because of the size of the tunnels, the tourist train is very cramped. As soon as I got inside, I realised that I would not be be able to stay because of claustrophobia. Apparently, a lot of people struggle with this because they provided a video of the complete ride with the same narration provided on the actual ride. I had not heard of this railway before and found it all most interesting. The other section of the museum consisted of exhibits relating to the Post Office from the time of Charles II up to the present day. Again, it was most interesting.

A battery-operated maintenance locomotive, built in 1927. It was run by 127 cells.

The tourist train arriving back at the station

A fleet of 90 four-wheel rail cars carried the mail in 1927 when the railway opened.

The Postal Museum Building

The text above reads:
"Yesterday, Sunday 20 October 1816, an ASTONISHING ATTACK took place at Winterslow Hut coaching inn near Salisbury. The Exeter-London Mail Coach is known as Quicksilver for its speed and efficiency but yesterday's event tested this to its limits. Half-way through its journey to London, the passengers aboard were astounded to see A LIONESS trotting alongside the coach.

The driver, mistaking her for a calf, was not alarmed. But when the coach pulled into the Winterslow coaching inn, the lioness pounced and TOOK ONE OF THE HORSES, POMEGRANATE, IN HER JAW.

The passengers, fearing for their lives, stormed the coaching inn and barricaded themselves inside, shutting out Joseph Pike - the Mail Coach Guard. Mr Pike's primary job was to ensure the safety and security of the mail. To this end, he reached for his regulation blunderbuss gun...

BUT BEFORE HE COULD FIRE at the lioness, a Mr Ballard appeared pleading for the creature who, it seems, had escaped from his travelling menagerie of animals.

Pike did not shoot. Instead, Mr Ballard set his Newfoundland dog on to the lioness which then promptly hid under a grain store.
The lioness was safely removed.
Rumours abound that Mr Ballard has today purchased Pomegranate the horse and, although injured, he can now be seen at the menagerie along with the lioness and the dog.
A spokesperson from the Royal Mail reported that there was NO LOSS OF MAIL and the Mail Coach was only delayed by 45 minutes before a new horse was found to complete the journey to London.

Made to a Post Office design and built in 1935, this Morris Minor mail van helped staff collect, transport and deliver the post. Its small capacity made it perfect for rural areas.

This is Arnold Machin's final plaster cast, known as the 'Dressed Head', which provided the iconic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for use on British stamps from 1967 to date.

The next destination was All Saints' Church in Margaret St. This church was designed by William Butterfield who was the architect of our own St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne. It is a Grade I listed building. The CEO of English Heritage called it "one of the ten most important buildings in the country". Given the number of important buildings in the country, that is high praise indeed! As soon as we entered, we noticed the many similarities between the two buildings. There were a great many works of art in the building including tile murals, stone carvings and stained glass windows. There is also a four-manual Harrison & Harrison pipe organ with 65 speaking stops. We spent about an hour exploring this wonderful church.

After a ride on some very hot and crowded Tube carriages, the garden at All Saints' was like an oasis in the desert!

The Font

Detail of above

One of the tile murals

Enoch, Isaiah and Malachi

The Altar in one of the chapels

The Pulpit

I marvelled at how the person who made this could cut the stones to such perfect sizes in order to construct this decoration on the font.

Each panel was different

The Quire and the Sanctuary

The Altar

The Ceiling of the Sanctuary

The Choir stalls on the cantoris side and some of the organ pipes

The view from the Quire, looking West

St Catherine (with the wheel on which she was martyred), and St Alban (I'll leave it to your imagination as to why he is shown with a sword).

St Athanasius, St Augustine of Hippo

St Augustine of Canterbury, Christ in Glory, and King Edward

St Gabriel, St Michael and St Raphael

The view from the west

The floor tiles

Almost every surface is decorated!

The Ceiling of the Nave

Alpha and Omega

Our third activity was to attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey. The service was due to start at 5:00pm. After taking a wrong train on the Underground, we arrived at 4:20pm. This still gave us first place in the queue and a guaranteed place to sit in the Quire. We were seated directly behind one side of the choir. This meant that the balance of the sound was not perfect but we were so close we could read the scores! The music included the responses by Morley and Stanford's setting of the canticles in A Major. The reason for my particular interest, though, was the anthem which was the "Chichester Psalms" by Leonard Bernstein (who also composed the music for "West Side Story"). This is a wonderful piece of music that runs 20 minutes and requires a harp and percussion as well as the organ and, of course, the choir. This is a difficult piece of music (the words are in Hebrew for a start) which all the musicians performed superbly. If you are not familiar with the work, you can hear it here with the score provided as well. The organ voluntary was "Litanies" by Jehan Alain (another favourite piece of music).

We were due at the Swan Bar and Restaurant for dinner at 6:00pm. Unfortunately, the lengthy stay at the Abbey made us half an hour late. Although I had called to let them know of our late arrival, the restaurant staff were initially reluctant to provide all three courses for us (which we had already paid for!). Satoshi made the helpful suggestion that they could bring out the starter and main course together. This seemed to settle them down and we managed to eat dinner and arrive in a comfortable time frame at the Globe Theatre (within the same complex) for a performance of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". The Globe Theatre is a reconstruction of the theatre as it would have been in Shakespeare's time, including a large standing room only section. We were surprised to see how many people (300?) who were willing to stand for the whole play (2.5 hours). Our seats were benches (without backs) but cushions were provided! The cast was excellent and we both enjoyed the performance very much.

Dinner at the Swan Bar and Restaurant

Outside the Globe Theatre

< Back   Forward >

Back to Calendar