There’s a rather fine looking church in East London that I have passed on many an occasion with doors locked, but last week, the doors were open, so inside I went.

At least, as far as the porch that is – for a locked metal gate prevented entry into the church proper, and almost looked like the way a Catholic convent is locked up, but this is an Anglican church.

St Mary’s Cable Street — officially if rarely, St George-in-the-East, St Mary — owes its origins to William Quekett, who opened schools for the local poor in the arches underneath the railway and raised money for a permanent school and church to be built.

At the time the area was largely slums, known as Sun Tavern Fields — but thanks to the opium dens and crime, better known as No Mans Land.

In 1849, the fast rising politician and future Prime Minister, Lord Haddo, who also knew the area, laid the foundation stone of the new church and it was consecrated a year later.

The church is designed in the early ‘middle-pointed’ style of the early fourteenth century, and built in brick faced in coursed limestone. Galleries were probably intended for the north and south aisles, but these were never constructed.

One side has stained glass windows, while the other is clear — and unusually, this is not the result of war damage, but due to the fact that the church was originally built with clear glass in all the windows, and the stained glass side added in the 1930s.

It’s difficult to see much more, but was a pleasant surprise to pass by one day and finally see the forbidding red doors unlocked for once. An hour later, passing back again – the doors were locked once more.

Nearest railway stations

  1. Shadwell
  2. Limehouse
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