St Ethelreda’s – London’s Oldest Catholic Church

St Ethelreda’s – London’s Oldest Catholic Church

Tucked down an inauspicous dead-end street in Hatton Garden is St Etheldreda’s Church. It was built in the time of King Edward i (Edward Longshanks) and he would have known this church. It would have been a part of the palace of the Bishop of Ely which was his London residence.

Curiously up until the 1980s it was still a part of Ely (which is in Cambridgeshire) to the extent that if you committed a crime and then fled to this area the city of London police could not arrest you here. They would have to call the Cambridgeshire constabulary to come all the way down to apprehend you!

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It is also mentioned in William Shakespeare’s Richard iii as Holborn was very famous for its Strawberry fields. Gloucester says to the Bishop of Ely:

When I was last in Holborn,
I saw good strawberries in your garden there
I do beseech you send for some of them.

St Ethelreda’s church itself is rather beautiful and has a bit of a creepy crypt which is an oasis of peace amongst the hussle and bustle of the surrounding area.

Also nearby is a statue of Prince Albert doffing his hat. This is a peculiar statue as he appears to be in military uniform even though he never saw military service in his life. He must be inspecting some troops as in the old days doffing your hat was the way that one would salute.

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Go and check it out and why not go for a drink at Ye Olde Mitre around the corner whilst you’re there!

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