• Alex Lacey

The Secret Garden near St Paul's Cathedral


One of the best things about the City of London is the amount of secret little nooks and crannies hidden down tiny alleyways and round the back of adorable little churches.


Today we are looking at a little courtyard garden round the back of a church just over the road from St Paul's Cathedral, the curiously named St Vedast Alias Foster.


You may never think to take a peek round the back here, but if you follow the lure of the two little blue doors, usually propped open, you will find a little haven which hides a variety of its own secrets behind these doors.



Let's go and take a look...


Follow the little corridor down, and you will emerge into the most adorable little courtyard, filled with flowers and a central tree. But it isn't the flora that is interesting us today. Let's look closer...


ROMAN PAVEMENT

On one side of the courtyard we can find a patch of Roman pavement. It was discovered 18ft

below the floor of the nearby church St Matthew, Friday Street when it was demolished in 1886. Why was it demolished? It followed the fate of several other churches in the City of London, being a Wren church which had been rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666, but when the industrial revolution starts, the population of central London diminished considerably. People realised they could live a nicer life out of the smoke and grime of the big trade areas, and travel in on the new railways. Therefore, several parishes were clumped together and subsumed into other churches' parishes - in this case, St Vedast Alias Foster took over the reins. When the pavement was discovered, it was moved over here to this little courtyard. It is not, however, the oldest thing in this courtyard...



ANCIENT ASSYRIAN CUNEIFORM


As if having a Roman pavement isn't enough, we are upping the game with an ancient Assyrian artefact, complete with ancient Cuneiform writing, the oldest known form of writing, which also pre-dates Egyptian Hieroglyphs.


Why on earth is it here?!

Well this is where it gets even more interesting. This tablet was given to the Canon of the church, Canon Mortlock. He was instrumental in rebuilding the church after the Blitz, and had also done an expedition in Assyria with Sir Max Malloran, who just so happened to be the husband of one Agatha Christie. It was gifted to Canon Matlock as a reminder of their dig, and has since been installed here. And Canon Matlock? Well we also have a sculpture of him here too, by none other than the eminent sculptor...


Jacob Epstein



The famed sculptor Epstein has immortalised Canon Matlock on the other side of the square, looking out towards his cuneiform tablet on the far wall.


They were clearly friends, as Canon Mortlock gave the eulogy at Epstein's funeral in 1959.






Parish Boundary Marker

One thing that is always a lovely little marker of the old lines of the City of London, showing how things used to lie. These parish boundary markers were used to show the population of London which parish they were in so they knew where to pay their dues, and where they should show up for worship as well. This one very clearly has St V F, standing for St Vedast Alias Foster, a clear indicator of whose parish you are standing in!


Worshipful Company of Dyers



Another little lovely detail is the plaque on the wall for the Worshipful Company of Dyers, one of the Guilds of the City of London. However, the hall belonging to the Dyers is situated nowhere near here.


After a bit of a rummage, I also cannot find a link to the Dyers on this site, so it is not immediately clear why their badge is here. Anyone with any information, feel free to get in touch!


So, should you be in the vicinity of St Paul's cathedral and be looking for a quiet little spot to sit and think, or explore some ancient artefacts, follow the little blue doors.




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