Southwark Cathedral Shakespeare Window

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Monday 9 June 2008 10.08pm
Hello all,

I am an American Shakespeare scholar. I teach at Yale University. I am very interested in learning more about the Shakespeare monument and window in Southwark Cathedral. I have been able to find out the bare outline of its history from some old guidebooks and histories, and some newpaper clippings, but there is a great deal I still do not know.

I will be in London next month, and plan on spending some time at the British Library, the Harvard/Southwark Local Studies Library, and the Cathedral itself to find out more. In the meantime, I wonder if anyone on this forum knows about specific resources or materials I might consult. I have read the various editions of Canon William Thompson's histories of the Cathedral, and would like to learn more about Canon Thompson himself and his role in the design and installation of the Windows; as well as any specific details about the Nazi bombing that destoyed the original windows, and the eventual reconstruction project. Any information at all is most helpful for me--most of the materials I can get my hands on here in the States are very old and limited in the information they contain. I'd love to hear from anyone on the forum, or you can also email directly at bgwalsh74@yahoo.com.

Thank you, and apologies for the long post.
Brian Walsh
Monday 9 June 2008 10.34pm
It is worth getting in touch with the visitors's office at the Cathedral as although there is no official arhivist (the parish records of St Saviours are now in the London Metropolitan Archives), the volunteer guides of the Cathedral include some keen amateur historians.

[Edited to add - having just checked the Cathedral's website they now show a librarian, so it may be worth contacting her as well!]

However, the monument is not a great piece of work. The description in Ian Nairn's London, first published in 1966, has stuck with me since I read it twenty years ago...

Quote:
Otherwise there are two jokes. Shakespeare in the south nave aisle, is given a gelid apparition by H.V.McCarthy (1912) in some astonishing stone which looks exactly like frozen aspic or frog-spawn, very creepy. Lionel Locker in the north transpect on the other handm was provided with an effigy whose texture is more like papiermache or melted gold balls. ...
Tuesday 10 June 2008 10.14am
Lang Rabbie wrote:
It is worth getting in touch with the visitors's office at the Cathedral as although there is no official arhivist (the parish records of St Saviours are now in the London Metropolitan Archives), the volunteer guides of the Cathedral include some keen amateur historians.
[Edited to add - having just checked the Cathedral's website they now show a librarian, so it may be worth contacting her as well!]

However, the monument is not a great piece of work. The description in Ian Nairn's London, first published in 1966, has stuck with me since I read it twenty years ago...

Quote:
Otherwise there are two jokes. Shakespeare in the south nave aisle, is given a gelid apparition by H.V.McCarthy (1912) in some astonishing stone which looks exactly like frozen aspic or frog-spawn, very creepy. Lionel Locker in the north transpect on the other handm was provided with an effigy whose texture is more like papiermache or melted gold balls. ...
Frozen aspic is perfect. Have to say that the poor chap also looks most uncomfortable anatomically. But it's very touching to see that people constantly replace the sprig of rosemary in his hand....
Sunday 29 June 2008 11.47pm
My recollection is that the final contribution which allowed the memorial in Southwark Cathedral to be completed in 1912 came from someone who was appalled by the mismanagement of the Shakespeare Memorial Fund. My understanding is that this body had been originally founded to erect a memorial to Shakespeare, but at some point it decided that the best memorial would be a National Theatre. However, by 1911 it was clear that the Funds was unlikely to succeed in its plans to raise sufficient funds to complete a National Theatre before the 1916 tercentenary of WS's death.

Some Googling suggests that the Fund Committee apparently managed to lose money on the Shakespeare's England exhibition at Earl's Court in 1912, although to their credit this was the first time that a replica of the Globe was erected, and without this I suspect that most of the impetus for "authentic" performance spaces on both sides of the Atlantic would never have developed.

Infuriatingly, I still haven't been able able to remember where I originally read this (in a real book rather than on the internet).

Possibly the archives of either the National Theatre (or the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford) might be able to shed some more light on this???
Monday 30 June 2008 11.36pm
Dear Lang Rabbie,

Thanks for your thoughtful replies. Your last post especially points me in some useful directions. I am looking forward to visiting the Cathedral itself, and going through materials at the BL, Guildhall Library, and Southwark Local Studies Library next week when I am in London for a (regrettably) very short trip; I hope to make some interesting discoveries.

I am still keen to find out more about Rev. William Thompson, who wrote and expanded a history of the Cathedral several times between 1892 and the last edition of 1910. TP Stevens, who wrote and subsequently updated his own guide to the Church at regular intervals between 1922 and 1954 or so writes that he believes Thompson was responsible for the idea to install the original series of dramatic windows in the 1890s. Most libraries that have a listing for Thompson note his death year as 1909, although I have not been able to verify this, or find an obituary. I have not seen him in a DNB from that era, although I have not been able to check as many editions as I would like.

Thanks again, and of course, I would love to hear from anyone else on the forum who might have ideas, insights, or special knowledge of the Cathedral Windows--the originals destroyed by the Nazi bombings or the replacement one unveiled in 1954--or about Rev. Thompson.

BW

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