The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 10 Burial Grounds

St Pauls customs

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Picture the churchyard once more in still earlier times, when strange, fantastic customs clung round the cathedral services. One of the most original seems to have arisen from the tenure of land in Essex granted to Sir William Baud by the Dean and Chapter. The twenty-two acres of land were held on the condition that "hee would (for ever) upon the Feast day of the Conversion of Paul in Winter give unto them a good Doe, seasonable and sweete, and upon the Feast of the Commemoration of St. Paul in Summer, a good Buck, and offer the same at the high Altar, the same to bee spent amongst the Canons residents." On the appointed days the keeper who had brought the deer carried it through the procession to the high altar. There the head was severed, and the body sent off to be cooked, while the horns, stuck on a spear, were carried round the cathedral. The procession consisted of the Dean and Chapter in their copes-special ones for the two occasions-one embroidered with does, the other with bucks, the gift of the Baud family, and on their heads garlands of roses. Having performed the ceremony within the church, the whole procession issued out of the west door, and there the keeper blew a blast upon his horn, and when he had "blowed the death of the Bucke," the "Homers that were about the City presently answered him in like manner." The Dean and Chapter paid the blowers of horns fourpence each and their dinner, while the man who brought the venison got five shillings and his food and lodgings, and a "loafe of bread, having the picture of Saint Paul upon it," to take away with him. What a strange picture of mediï¾µval life and half-pagan rites ! yet all conducted with perfect good faith, in all seriousness. It is just one of the great charms of knowing London and its traditions, that one is able to clear away in imagination the growth of centuries, and throw back one's mind to the past-to stand at the top of Ludgate Hill and to remove Wren's building and to see the Gothic pinnacles; to blot out the garden and fountain and modern seats, and see Paul's Cross; on the left to see the arches of the cloisters, and on the right the high wall and timbered houses; then to open the western door and see this strange procession issue forth, with the antlers borne aloft, and hear the bugleblast and answering notes. What a picture such recollections call up!-the excited crowds with all the colour of Tudor costumes, the eager, fanatical faces of the "defenders of the Faith," the sad and despondent faces of the intensely serious Reformers, as they see the blue smoke curl upwards, and the flames consume the sacred volumes. Surely no place can be more crowded with memories than busy, "roaring London," and nowhere are the past and present so unexpectedly brought together. The City is full of surprises to those who have leisure to wander among its narrow, crowded streets. The quiet little graveyards afford many of these telling contrasts. Suddenly, in the busiest thoroughfares, where a constant stream of men are walking by every weekday, come these quiet little back-waters. In many cases the churches themselves have vanished, or only remain in part. St. Mary's Staining is one of these, so hidden away that one might walk along Fenchurch Street hundreds of times and never find it. The approach is by a very narrow alley, at the end of which is this quiet little graveyard, where, among other worthies, reposes Sir Arthur Savage, knighted at Cadiz in 1596. The church, all except the tower, was destroyed in the Great Fire, and never rebuilt. The picturesque old tower stands in the centre of this little plot, which now forms the garden of the Clothworkers' Company, whose hall opens on to one side of it.