Yesterday I was in London. The reason for being there, was the press launch for ‘Birdsong – the stage show’ at the National Army Museum (next to Royal Hospital Chelsea, top photo). I walked into NAM right behind author Sebastian Faulks, but I don’t think he noticed me. Details of ‘Birdsong’ as a play will follow, but as a book, it spans the years 1910 – 1979, telling stories of love and looking back into the past.
So, it was a little strange afterwards to carry on my own family history, to also be walking streets I used to visit thirty years ago, and end up in a coffee shop playing 1980s music. As I listened to Visage ‘Fade to Grey’ while looking out on another downpour, ‘Reflections’ was definitely the theme.
The first road I had to find was Warwick Street, which is a small road parallel to Regent Street. I found the house where my great-great-gran was born in 1854. Her father was a tailor, and the second road was Berwick Street, where he died, at no 48, in 1858. I know they lived in Warwick Street in 1848 when the eldest daughter was born, but the family are very hard to find in census records. I tried to imagine little four year old Hannah walking these streets in Victorian times, coming to terms with the death of her father.
Warwick Street turned out to be interesting. In the census reports the whole area is under ‘Golden Square’ about which wikipedia says:
“Possibly laid down by Sir Christopher Wren, the plan bears Wren’s signature, but the patent does not state whether it was submitted by the petitioners or whether it originated in Wren’s office. This west London square was brought into being from the 1670s onwards. It very rapidly became the political and ambassadorial district of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, housing the Portuguese embassy among others.”
The Portuguese Embassy built a Catholic Chapel in Warwick Street, which after 1747 was taken over by the Bavarian Embassy, and for a long time was known as the Bavarian Chapel. The Chapel was damaged during the Gordon Riots of 1780, when mobs attacked Catholic property and people, 12,000 troops were involved in trying to quell the riots, and 700 people died. More details of the Chapel can be found on this blog: The Jacobite Intelligencer
It’s a very plain building, set in a very ordinary street, hiding an incredible interior. Heads down against the rain yesterday, how many such places do you pass by without realising?