Walking in London with Wesley

It’s hard to believe that today was my last full day in London – if I think about it for too long, I start to get a little teary-eyed, so I’ll just jump in to tell you about my Saturday.

Every British Studies class had final exams this morning, except for us. (We’re special!) We did however have to either meet with Dr. Welsh and Dr. Griffis to tell them our research paper title, problem statement, and research questions, or send them an email with said pertinent information. Since I only solidified my topic a few days ago, I decided to meet with the professors to make sure we were all on the same page. The meeting was successful, and I was soon on my way to continue my research. As I’ve mentioned before, London is a late riser, particularly on the weekends, and many of the city streets were uninhabited… it was a lovely and peaceful way to start the day as I walked from site to site or hopped on empty double decker buses.

During my first trip to Wesley’s Chapel, I picked up a number of brochures – one of them was titled John Wesley’s London Walking Map, and leads interested parties on an approximately two-hour walk to 15 sites that are related to John Wesley’s life and ministry  in London. The tour began at Wesley’s Chapel and lead me to prominent sites such as the Bunhill Fields burial ground, where Wesley’s mother, Susanna is buried. Other notable figures buried in the graveyard include the poet William Blake, Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, and John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress.

John Wesley's Walking Tour Map

John Wesley’s Walking Tour – Courtesy of http://www.methodistheritage.org.uk/londonwalkingtour.htm

Two of my favorite stops along the way were the Museum of London and my return to St. Paul’s:

The Museum of London was built in 1976, and details the history of London from prehistoric times (prior to the Roman era) all the way to today. Ironically, this was the museum I skipped on Wednesday morning in order to conduct research – now my research has led me here! Outside of the Museum is the Aldersgate Flame, a memorial plaque built in 1981 which commemorates Wesley’s profound conversion experience on May 24, 1738, on that very site. In his writings, Wesley described the experience with phrases such as “I felt my heart strangely warmed…”

Aldersgate Flame - John Wesley's Conversion Place Memorial outside of the Museum of London

Aldersgate Flame – John Wesley’s Conversion Place Memorial outside of the Museum of London

Wesley also appears inside the Museum of London, which has multiple permanent gallery displays. The Expanding City: 1666-1850s gallery is home to a few items relating to Wesley, including a portrait of him giving his last sermon on February 23, 1791, as well as other memorabilia.

I backtracked my way to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was stunning on this sunny Saturday. By this time, people were out and about with their giant cups of coffee, lounging on the Cathedral’s steps. Though I’ve been to St. Paul’s multiple times, I never knew there was a statue dedicated to Wesley on the church grounds, so I had to go on a bit of a scavenger hunt to locate it.

John Wesley's Statue - St. Paul's Cathedral

John Wesley’s Statue – St. Paul’s Cathedral

Located in the northwest corner of the churchyard, the bronze statue stands 5 feet, 1 inches tall – Wesley’s height in real life – and was erected in 1988. Inscribed on the plaque are these words that encompass a pillar of Methodist teachings:

By Grace ye are saved through Faith 

The statue is a cast of the original marble statue, created by Samuel Manning, and the original can be found today in the Methodist Central Hall, a Methodist church, conference centre, and art gallery in Westminster.

I have to say that the walking tour helped me capture a sense of Wesley’s life in London, as well as the legacies he has left behind – it is clear that Wesley was truly an influential Briton, and though the US has the largest population of Methodists in the world, it is all too easy to forget to trace our church history back to England. My feet may be tired, but my mind is churning with thoughts and ideas for my research paper.

Cheers to a successful and productive morning,

Taylor

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Royal Geographical Society

Royal Geographical Society

Royal Geographical Society

It’s hard to believe that today was our last official class visit… it’s also hard to believe that I woke up this morning having my fourth heart episode in nine days. (I’m sure you’re all bored with the heart information, but really I’m keeping track of these episodes for my own benefit).

However, I am ecstatic to say that our class toured the Royal Geographical Society (RGS)! This was not on our initial itinerary for the trip, but Dr. Welsh and Dr. Griffis did promise us a few surprise visits…

You may remember that the girls and I visited the RGS back on the 3rd to see their photography exhibit, and I am very interested in the society after reading about it in The Lost City of Z. The RGS was founded in 1830, and is a highly specialized body that focuses on advancing the geographical sciences; it is a membership organization, with over 15,000 members and Fellows in 100 countries. Dr. Welsh is actually a Fellow of the Society, and so we were able to have an in-depth tour of some of their collections in the Foyle Reading Room.

RGS’s collections encompass nearly 2 million items, which include artifacts, books, maps, manuscripts, and personal effects from famous explorers whose expeditions were partially or fully funded by the Society. Eugene Rae, the Principal Librarian, created what he called a “Hot and Cold” exhibit, meaning it covered exploration from the deserts of Africa to the Arctic and Antarctica. We were shown the sketches, compass, sextants, and hats of famous African explorers David Livingstone and Henry Stanley, items left behind from Captain Robert Scott’s ill-fated final Antarctic expedition in 1912, and the boot and goggles from Mount Everest explorer George Mallory, who died on the mountain in 1924. We were not allowed to take pictures of these amazing items, but I encourage you to explore their catalogue – type in any of the explorers I mentioned above, limit to Artefacts, and you’ll get a detailed description of the boxes of materials and items RGS has in relation to that person.

Although the Society is essentially a members-only organization, use of the collections and archives is encouraged, though researchers must undergo a registration process. In addition, the Society still issues travel grants for expeditions, fieldwork, student research, and teaching. Lastly, various exhibitions are opened to the public throughout the year at the Society’s facilities, and I have now had the chance to see two: the Environmental Photographer of the Year, and the Travel Photographer of the Year. (Click on the links for pictures) Both exhibits beautifully showcased breathtaking images and films from around the world. Fun Fact: Did you know that actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes have a cousin named Ranulph, who is arguably the world’s most famous modern-day adventurer and explorer? Check him out – his various record-breaking feats are fascinating, and he is speaking at the RGS in September.

The RGS is probably one of my favorite places we’ve visited on this trip, as it’s really unlike any other library, archive, or museum we’ve seen. I am highly interested in exploration, and love reading about historical non-fiction adventures; they’re often so exciting and seemingly unrealistic that they read like a fiction book. But seeing the actual artifacts of explorers solidified the realness of their lives for me, and I appreciate that these men literally sacrificed their lives for their country, their honor, and their often fanatical desire to explore and further the realm of knowledge for mankind. To experience a glimpse of the driving force behind these men, I encourage you all again to read The Lost City of Z, which details the life and mysterious death of explorer Percy Fawcett.

After our final visit, I grabbed a quick lunch from Pret (sadly quite possibly my last ham and egg sandwich here in London), and trekked back to the Wesley Museum to do more research. In true explorer fashion, I had mapped out my route on the Tube, which was quite simple in theory – from the South Kensington Station, which was right down the street from the RGS, I would hop on either the Circle or District line, take that to Monument Station, where I’d then take the Northern line up to Old Street. Easy, right? WRONG. The Circle and District lines are now the bane of existence, and I was incredibly unhappy with London after my tube fiasco today. I did finally make it to the museum, though I could only spent an hour there since they closed at 4. To make myself feel better, I decided to do some shopping, but that too, ended disastrously, so I promptly gave up and treated myself to some Ben’s cookies for dinner. Because, why not? Sometimes a girl just needs a giant cookie and then the world is ok again…

Here’s hoping for a better tomorrow, which I know will happen, because the girls and I are headed to Warner Bros Studios for THE MAKING OF HARRY POTTER! I’ll try to contain my excitement, but can make no promises.

Sleep tight,

Taylor

Wesley’s Chapel and the Museum of Methodism

As you may remember from a few weeks ago, Jade and I attended a moving service at Wesley’s Chapel on our first Sunday in London. So, needless to say, I woke up this morning with a feeling of excitement to return to this beautiful place! After some less-than-pleasant experiences in attempting to narrow down a research topic, I had an inkling that my experience today at Wesley’s Chapel would be a success – and I am happy to say to that I was correct! Though I got a little lost at first (the Old Street Tube Station is quite confusing!), I soon found my way back to the Chapel. Since London is a surprisingly late riser (hardly anything opens before 10 am), it was quiet and peaceful in the courtyard of the Chapel.

John Wesley Statue at Wesley's Chapel

Hello again, Mr. Wesley…

After enjoying those few peaceful moments, I wandered into the Chapel and downstairs into the Museum of Methodism.

Welcome to the Museum of Methodism

On my first visit to the Chapel, we briefly walked through the Museum, so it was nice to take my time walking through the displays and seeing the various documents, facsimiles, pamphlets, magazines, hymn books, and ephemera related to the history of Methodism – from John Wesley‘s time to the present. Wesley, who along with his brother Charles, are considered the co-founders of Methodism, built the Chapel in 1777, and moved into his house next-door in 1779. After his death in 1791, John Wesley was buried in the Chapel graveyard. The Chapel itself has sustained fire damage, survived World War II, and has undergone multiple renovations. In 1898, John Wesley’s House became a museum, and the Museum of Methodism opened in the crypt of the Chapel in 1984. The buildings have such a rich history, and are central to not only John Wesley’s life, but also of Methodism itself…

I also had a chance to speak with Christian Dettlaff, the Curator of the Museum; he was so friendly and was happy to answer some of my questions about the Museum. Since 1977, the University of Manchester has served as the official archive of the Methodist Church of Great Britain, but prior to this date, the archives were actually kept at Wesley’s Chapel and John Wesley’s House. Now that the bulk of Wesley’s papers are located in Manchester, the Museum today focuses mainly on acquiring

Wesley's Prayer Room

Wesley’s Prayer Room

documents and items related to the history of the Chapel and the House. Wesley’s House is packed with items belonging to the late theologian, including his furniture and personal library (consisting of 474 books); these books are used by researchers even today, and many of the books bear his signature on the inner cover.

All in all, it was a very productive morning for me at the Chapel, Museum, and House. The staff and volunteers made this born and raised United Methodist feel right at home, and it was rewarding to learn more about Wesley’s life as well as the history of Methodism itself, both for my personal and academic interests. The gift shop in the Museum was full of helpful materials for my research paper, including a complete catalogue of the collection of letters written by Wesley that are held at the Museum.

Though the formatting and structure of this research paper is unlike any paper I’ve ever previously written, I appreciate the fact that Dr. Welsh and Dr. Griffis are pushing us outside of our comfort zone – after all, isn’t that what traveling is all about?!

Until tomorrow,

Taylor

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Westminster Abbey

Part One: A Visit to Westminster Abbey 

Hello, hello!

It’s hard to believe that this sunny and particularly warm Tuesday was our first day of class in a week! It’s been great to see my classmates again and hear about everyone’s mini-break adventures. But alas, the vacation is over and we’re back to work…

This morning there was an optional trip to the Maughan Library, the library of King’s College, where we’ve been living these past few weeks. While I wanted to see this apparently amazing research library, I chose to focus on my research paper. After mulling over various topics, from John Wesley to the British Museum archives, none of which have panned out, I then decided to check out the BFI’s collections. But you’ll read more about them later.

I’m sad to report that my morning did not go as planned, as I woke up having yet another heart episode. After several hours of resting in bed though, it finally stopped in time for me to run a few quick errands and then meet for the class trip to the Westminster Abbey Library! (No pictures could be taken inside the library, but if you click on the link, you can catch a glimpse of what it looks like inside)

Librarian and Keeper of the Muniments Sign - Westminster Abbey

Entrance to Westminster Abbey’s Library

With this fantastic sign on the door of the library, located in the East Cloister, we rang the doorbell and headed upstairs. (Fun Fact: I had no idea what a “muniment” was, and it turns out it basically refers to the records/archives. The technical definition is a document such as a title, deed, contract, etc.) We met with Dr. Tony Trowles, the Head of the Collection, who gave us a rundown of the history of the Abbey itself, as well as specifics about the library. The current library, established since 1591, is located in what used to be a monk’s dormitory! In 1587, a man named William Camden became the first appointed librarian of Westminster; today, Dr. Trowles is only the 34th appointed librarian. If you do the math, that means that in 427 years, there have been 34 men in charge of Westminster’s collections, averaging about 12.5 years of employment/person.

Surprisingly, only approximately 1/2 of the library’s collection is religious in nature (sermons, history of the early Church Fathers, etc.), and there is a sizable collection of British history, which includes the reign of the Romans. The library’s early printed book collection is now closed and rarely added to, as the focus of acquisitions today is on the Abbey itself (the building, monuments and memorials on the grounds, coronations, etc.) The muniments detail the administrative history of the Abbey and dates back to the 10th century.

Today, the library is still in fact a working library, and visitors can utilize the collections in the Reading Room, while the small group of staff work to answer specialized inquiries and research questions that pour in from around the world. In addition, staff are just beginning to computerize the library’s catalog, meaning a good old fashioned card catalogue is still in use! (Personally, I love that fact about the Abbey…. it just seems fitting to me).

I know that I gushed over getting to visit St. Paul’s library, and y’all are probably tired of reading about my affinity for theological libraries, but I’m going to say it again – I am SO thrilled that I was able to tour Westminster’s Library. Something about them just makes this future librarian’s heart happy.

Part 2: A Semi-Productive Afternoon 

I’m not sure how I’ve made it this far without mentioning our daily class tradition – at virtually every library/archive/museum we’ve visited, Dr. Griffis and Dr. Welsh have assembled us into fabulous group photos! At this point, we have a fairly large and impressive collection of group shots from all across London and beyond! After our tour of Westminster ended, Dr. Griffis led us to the nearby Trafalgar’s Square, where we took several group shots – remember, that’s where my main man, Lord Nelson is located, so I was happy to visit his monument yet again. At the bottom of this post I created a slide show of our group photos so you can see my classmates and some of the places we’ve been! We’re a motley crew, but I think we’re all pretty awesome.

Since I did not have a chance to check out the BFI this morning, I made a solo trip there after leaving Trafalgar’s Square to scope out their Reuben Library, and maybe speak with a librarian there about helping with my research paper. Needless to say, that trip ended in disappointment, and I trudged back from the BFI to our dorms (fortunately, it’s a 5 minute walk), and tried to re-group.

BUT, after an emergency meeting with Dr. Griffis and Dr. Welsh, I am pleased to announce to everyone that I now OFFICIALLY have a research topic – though really I’m back to square one, I will be writing about John Wesley and the Museum of Methodism! I have been given permission to skip our Museum of London tour tomorrow morning in order to do some research, so I can’t wait to get started and update you all tomorrow. My fingers are crossed that this works because we are rapidly running out of research time!

I am stuffed full of pizza, and sleepy after a relaxing night in our dorms, so I’m off to bed.

Send me happy research thoughts, please,

Taylor

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Is the weekend already over?

 

Jade and I

Jade and I in front of John Wesley’s statue

I woke up this morning with my feet a little sore, and unable to believe it’s already Day 3 of our adventure! Though I am all for the idea that Sunday is a day of rest, Jade and I joined a group of a few other students to attend a service at Wesley’s Chapel. She and I are both United Methodists, and Wesley’s Chapel of course is attributed to John Wesley, who was the primary founder of Methodism. The chapel was built in 1778, and is a classic example of Georgian architecture with its breathtaking stain glass windows and marble columns. Fortunately for us, the service itself was as lovely as the building. A large choir visiting from Wisconsin on their European tour sang several classic anthems. The two preachers leading the service were both women (yay for Methodists!) and both the prayers and sermon were fantastic. Of course, I think anything spoken with a British accent sounds fantastic, but that’s neither here nor there…

Here’s your Fun Fact of the day: Did you know that the flush toilet was popularized by a man named Thomas Crapper? Yes, friends, I am telling the truth. This was complete news to me until today, where we learned that underneath the chapel is an original Victorian era bathroom (circa 1899) that is actually gorgeous! However, above all of the toilets is a stamp that says “Thomas Crapper & Co.” Who knows, maybe this will be a Jeopardy! question someday. If you win, make sure to split the prize winnings with yours truly!

After the service and a look at the Chapel’s Museum, Jade and I grabbed some lunch at EAT, and made our way back to the dorms. Our mission for the afternoon? Buy a UK cell phone! This proved to be a bit more challenging than originally expected, but helped us to fulfill our 10,000+ steps/day goal! After being sent to 3(!) Carphone Warehouse stores (don’t let the name fool you – these phones are not meant for your car), we can FINALLY all proudly say that we own European cell phones. Though I am a little peeved, and you should be too… American phone companies = a giant rip-off! For 20 pounds (roughly $35), we each had a phone, a SIM card, and 20 pounds of credit for calls/texts since we opted for the “pay as you go” plan. Sigh.

After our phone success, we decided to continue shopping, since both Jade and Jessica needed new bags. After stopping at various places, we ended up at Primark, which was probably the most crowded and chaotic store I’ve ever been in. All I kept thinking when we were walking around was “HOW do people work here?!” Anyone who has ever worked in retail (myself included) and thought they had it bad should go to a Primark on a Sunday afternoon. Whew…

Soon enough it was dinner time and after a few tube rides and some clever re-routing on our part due to ongoing construction, we made it back to Waterloo, which is our neighborhood tube station. We stopped at the M&S to buy groceries, but ended up eating out at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which had tasty burgers and fries and served Coke in glass bottles. My favorite!

We have to rise and shine bright and early in the morning as we’re leaving at 7 am to travel to Oxford and the Bodleian Library for our first official class. This is one of the sites I’m most looking forward to visiting, so I’ll be sure to post an update for you tomorrow!

Hope everyone is doing well,

Taylor

Wesley's Chapel

Statue of John Wesley with Wesley’s Chapel in the background

 

Wesley's gravestone

The site of John Wesley’s burial.

 

Stain glass windows

Windows inside the Chapel. No picture could do them justice.