St Paul's, Covent Garden

LINKS to other pages in the 'Christmas in London' site and to the Travelling Days series:

1 : Introduction
2 : London Lights
3 : Albert Memorial and Kensington Palace
4 : Albert Hall
5 : St Paul's Covent Garden
6 : New Year Sales


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The following information has been condensed from articles in Wikipedia:

St Paul's Church, also commonly known as the Actors' Church, is a church located in Covent Garden. As well as being the parish church of Covent Garden, the church gained its nickname by a long association with the theatre community.

In 1631 Inigo Jones was commissioned by Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford to design a church. Work on the church began that year and was completed in 1633, at a cost of £4000, with it becoming consecrated in 1638. In 1645 Covent Garden was made a separate parish and the church was dedicated to St Paul.

The first known victim of the 1665–1666 outbreak of the Plague in England, Margaret Ponteous, was buried in the churchyard on 12 April 1665. In 1788 Thomas Hardwick began a major restoration. However, in 1795 there was a terrible fire. Although much was destroyed, the parish records were saved, as was the pulpit, the work of Grinling Gibbons.

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St Paul's connection with the theatre began as early as 1663 with the establishment of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and was further assured in 1723 with the opening of Covent Garden Theatre, now the Royal Opera House.

On 9 May 1662, Samuel Pepys noted in his diary the first "Italian puppet play" under the portico - the first recorded performance of "Punch and Judy", a fact commemorated by the annual MayFayre service in May.

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The artist J. M. W. Turner and dramatist W. S. Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame), were both baptised at St Paul's. Among those buried at St Paul's are Samuel Butler, Grinling Gibbons, Sir Peter Lely and Thomas Arne (composer of "Rule Britannia").

The ashes of Dame Ellen Terry and Dame Edith Evans rest in St Paul's. Memorials in the church are dedicated to many famous personalities of the 20th century, including Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Gracie Fields, Vivien Leigh and Ivor Novello.

The Avenue of Stars passes outside the church and commemorates many notable figures and groups from the entertainment industry.The portico of St Paul's was the setting for the first scene of Shaw's Pygmalion, the play that was later adapted as the musical My Fair Lady.

The church is surrounded by an award-winning garden, providing an area of tranquility within busy central London. Each year a service of lessons and carols is held in the church just before Christmas Day. Many of the lessons are read by stage, TV and screen personalities.

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A visit to London concludes on the following page.
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