Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice

Circle the City

On Sun 21st May I joined about 500 people of all ages and abilities to take part in Christian Aid’s 20th sponsored walk ‘Circle the City’. This annual event marks the end of Christian Aid Week, which this 60th Anniversary year focused on refugees. The walk follows a circular 6-mile (10km) route visiting some of the historic churches and other places of worship in the City of London.

The walk begins at St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside where there is a short pre-walk service. Then armed with the route map and guide booklet we set off either clockwise or anti-clockwise, with an option to take a shorter 3-mile alternative. Many of the venues take part every year but there are always a few differences so there were two churches which had not been included in the 5 years I’ve been taking part, although I had visited them on other occasions. Of course, the route is always slightly different to accommodate the venues, but this year we were informed of two last minute diversions. These were due to road closures necessitated by the filming of Tomb Raider!

One diversion gave us a more straightforward route to St. Paul’s but the other was more disappointing as it meant we were unable to walk through Postman’s Park. This is designated as one of the ‘Prayer Points’ where we stop along the route to pray for a particular aspect of Christian Aid’s work. This tranquil garden is the location of The Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice, a series of ceramic tiles unveiled in 1900. It commemorates heroic acts by ordinary people (sometimes children) who lost their lives saving others from fires, drownings and transport accidents.

The two different churches this year were on the latter section of the walk, the first being St. Margaret Pattens. This small church on Eastcheap is but a stone’s throw from the ‘Walkie Talkie’ office block which gained notoriety a few years ago when passers-by were literally roasted by extreme temperatures on hot, sunny days. The concave nature of its mirrored surfaces was focusing the sun’s rays at particular points – what were the architects thinking? Obviously, they didn’t remember some basic physics!

But why the strange appendage to St. Margaret’s name? In the 17th Century there were so many churches in close proximity that there needed to be a way of distinguishing those with the same saint’s dedication. Often the location was used for this purpose and this St. Margaret’s was near a Patten Maker’s premises. Pattens were a type of under shoe consisting of a wooden sole shape with a platform or metal ring underneath. These were strapped to the shoe enabling the wearer to protect their footwear from the mud and dirt of London’s streets. As roads became paved the need for pattens gradually decreased and the trade disappeared. The church has display cabinets with examples of pattens and their history. St. Margaret’s is also associated with The Basket Makers’ Livery Company and there are examples of their work on display.

The other church new to the route was St. Michael Paternoster Royal which is near Canon Street station. Again its unusual name derives from its location on College Hill, formerly Paternoster Lane – where ‘paternosters’ (rosaries) were made. ‘Royal’ is associated with another nearby street Le Ryole, now disappeared, where a number of wine merchants were situated. This was a corruption of Le Reole, a town near Bordeaux. Like St. Margaret’s it is one of Wren’s churches built after The Great Fire but St. Michael’s also suffered extensive damage in WW2 although services continued until 1955. It was restored in the 1960s when the present contemporary design stained glass windows were fitted. These include a depiction of Dick Whittington, first Lord Mayor of London. He lived near the pre-wren church and paid for an extension to be built. He was buried in the church but mystery surrounds the exact whereabouts of his remains as the grave has not been found. When the church was reopened in 1968 it became the Headquarters for the Mission to Seamen (now Seafarers).

The other places we visited this year were: St. Paul’s Cathedral (outside only); St. Bride’s, Fleet Street; Christ Church Greyfriars Garden; St. Giles, Cripplegate; St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate; St. Olave’s, Hart Street; All Hallows-by-the-Tower; St. Dunstan-in-the-East Garden; St. Mary Woolnoth; St. Margaret Lothbury; St. Lawrence Jewry-next-Guildhall.

Finally, a huge ‘THANK YOU’ to everyone who came to see my display at our Christian Aid Fun Day, and to all who sponsored me. Members of St. John’s contributed £175.00 towards a total £503.00 excluding Gift Aid – a great result.

  • Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice
  • A Pair of Pattens
  • Detail from the Dick Whittington Window