Wednesday, 26 August 2015


Waterloo Drummer Boy
Back in the dim past, when I was a curate, I took Communion to two amazing ladies. One of them came to mind yesterday, for she had told me her Grandfather had been a drummer boy at the Battle of Waterloo. Now this picture is not of that boy - but we visited Somerset House, and there they have a small exhibition of photographs of battle re-enactors in uniforms of the period. Somerset House is surely the grandest setting in London. It outdoes Buckingham other Palace by a mile. Greenwich is the only contestant, and that is not really in London at all.

So we spent a happy half-hour looking at the pictures. They are beautifully displayed on a background of scarlet cloth; the very fabric from which British Uniforms were made - and astonishingly produced in the same Yorkshire mill which made the stuff to dress those 18th and 19th century soldiers

Waterloo Re-Enactors

Somerset House: NW Corner

The Buildings have been used for all sorts of purposes- picture galleries, record offices - today it helps fund its own preservation and restoration with private events. Yesterday the central square was filled with scaffolding and stages, sound and lighting equipment - all for some private party to be held there tonight. There is also some restoration work beginning in the Northeast corner. Some of the carvings are certainly showing their age. Many of them have a nautical look.

Weathered Mermen

That is only right, because this was also the home of the Navy Office - it was on this site that Sam Pepys would wait upon their Lordships of the Admiralty. The present building dates from a century after Pepys' time,  but replaces a Tudor palace. The Navy Office still proclaims itself over the door; but this is now a way into a cafe - just as Greenwich, originally built as a hospital for wounded sailors, is now a Museum and part of a University. (Oh, and another Pepys, Christopher, became Vicar of St Mark's Portsea soon after I left that title Parish - but that is another story)

St Agatha's Portsea

It always strikes me how very short is recorded history. I said one of those two home communicants had a grandfather who had fought at Waterloo.The other had herself been prepared for confirmation  by Father Dolling of Portsea, whose ten years in a Portsmouth Slum were at the end of the 19th Century. [His church building, you may know, now houses the Portsmouth Ordinariate.] That lady had imbued some of the spirit of Fr Dolling. When I once unwisely asked if she kept in touch with any of the series of curates who had taken her the Sacrament. She responded, "Certainly not! You enjoy a priest while he is here,and you pray for him after he has left". I think those prayers helped me through later years - and certainly her admonition warned me against that clerical disease, wanting to be liked!

South Facade  of Somerset House facing the Thames

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