Saturday, September 17, 2011

London Open House

This weekend is the wonderful architectural festival known as London Open House. One of the many treasures open free of charge to the public is Newington Green Unitarian Church, where, as last year, I was delighted to show visitors around, and tell them about Mary Wollstonecraft's life-changing time here. This is the church that radicalised England's first feminist! Dozens of people made the pilgrimage today, to sit in her pew and soak up the atmosphere of the chapel that changed the world. (A riff on the little history produced by Newington Green Action Group, The Village that Changed the World.)

Mary had a couple of crucial years in early adulthood with the Rational Dissenters of Newington Green. (Red Saunders has conjured up a photo-montage of Mary and the Dissenters, and James Hobbs has drawn charming sketches of the church and the house of Mary's mentor Richard Price.)  Was Mary a Unitarian? In affiliation, she and her contemporaries would have said not; but in her writing, it is easy to see her as one. She expresses views about the Divine and Nature that could fit into many a modern Unitarian sermon -- not to mention her revolutionary social perspective.

Tomorrow, the chapel is again open to all comers, 1:30 to 5pm. In addition, services are held on most Sundays at 11am (though not on Sept 18 - check here first), and if you get there early, you too can sit in Mary's pew.

[Addendum: one of the visitors was Cherry Potts, Writer, who came not only to admire the pews' rare ball hinges, but to pay her respects to pew 19, confessing to "a soft spot" for Our Mary.]

[PS2: I am told the total number of weekend visitors was 212.]

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