The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 3 Westminster

St. Margaret's Church

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St. Margaret's Church, a Perpendicular edifice dating from the late 15th century, but repeatedly altered and restored (open 11-4, except Saturday; entrance by the east door; Sunday services, 11 and 7). St. Margaret's, founded in the 11th or 12th century, as the parish church of Westminster, so as to leave the monks in undisturbed possession of the Abbey, was rebuilt under Edward I. by the wool merchants of Westminster and again in 1485-1523. Until 1858 it was attended by the House of Commons in state four times annually, as then prescribed by the Prayer Book, and it is still the official church of the House of Commons, with seats reserved for members. In 1916 it was created the parish church for the Dominions beyond the Seas. Sir Walter Raleigh, who was executed in 1618 in front of the Palace of Westminster, is buried in the chancel; and in the church or churchyard rest also William Caxton (died 1491), Skelton, the satirical poet (died 1529), Nicholas Udall, Harrington, author of 'Oceana' (died 1677), and John Milton's second wife (died 1658). Edmund Waller, Jeremy Bentham and Thomas Campbell were married in this church, and Matthew Prior was baptized here. The church contains many Elizabethan and Jacobean monuments. With the exception of that in the east window the stained glass is modern. The window above the door by which we enter commemorates Caxton, who is depicted between the Venerable Bede (left) and Erasmus (right); below, on the right, is a tablet with an inscription by Tennyson. The second window in the south aisle was erected in memory of Bishop Phillips Brooks (died 1893), of Massachusetts. The tomb of Lady Dudley (died 1600), to the right of it, may be noticed. The seventh window in the south aisle commemorates Queen Victoria's Jubilee (1887; inscription by Browning), and the window at the west end of the aisle Lord Frederick Cavendish, assassinated in Dublin in 1882. Over the west door is a large window dedicated by Americans to the memory of Raleigh (inscription by J. R. Lowell). The window at the west end of the north aisle, with an inscription by Whittier, commemorates Milton. Below it a tablet (1925) commemorates Wenceslaus Hollar of Prague (1607-77), the etcher, who died in the parish. The most interesting window on the north side is the fourth from the west end, in honour of Admiral Blake (1599-1657). The East Window, possibly made in Antwerp about 1520, is generally believed to celebrate the betrothal (1501) of Catherine of Aragon to Prince Arthur, Henry VII.'s eldest son, and to contain one of the only two authentic portraits of that prince. Some authorities contend that it refers to Catherine's marriage to Henry VIII. (1509). It was first set up in Waltham Abbey. After the Dissolution it passed through various hands, and at one time was buried to save it from the Puritans. It was finally sold to St. Margaret's in 1758 for �400. It was again removed for safety in 1915.