Some London Stations


I enjoyed seeing the evocation of gracious train travel on the recent film version of Murder on the Orient Express.  It is all based on Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel about Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective, and his efforts to solve a murder, which takes place on the train.  Just in case you don’t know the story I won’t spoil it for you, but all the incidental details showing the dining car and the assiduous attendants shows what a pleasurable and glamorous experience (murder apart!) a train journey can be.


It is not quite the same on our local train line; we don’t even have the trolley service we used to enjoy. The reduced train service, which accompanies bank holidays and festivals, can also be frustrating. ‘Woe betide’ those who thought they might travel by train on the first day of January 2018.


Nevertheless large numbers of the English still have a romantic affection for the railways and the buildings which go with them. Some of the stations really are very splendid. Norwich (Thorpe Station to the pedantic cognoscenti) looks like a French chateau and York like a many aisled cathedral with metal vaults.


Indeed a visit around the stations of London is a bit like a religious history of England. Charing Cross is named after the memorial cross erected by Edward I to his beloved wife Eleanor of Castile.  Outside in the taxi ranks you can see a Victorian recreation of the original.  Then there are the stations named after saints.  There is St Paul’s, near Wren’s famous cathedral or Marylebone, which is an abbreviation of St Mary on the banks of the bourne (bourne being an old word for a river).  Some of the references are more subtle such as Blackfriars, which remembers the long departed priory of black habited Dominican friars at the bottom of Ludgate Hill, or Temple, which commemorates the Mediaeval order of fighting monks known as the Knights Templar.


St Pancras looks like a Gothic cathedral and is named after an early Roman boy saint. Pancras was only fourteen when his refusal to abandon his Christian faith led to his death at the hands of the Roman Empire in 304AD..  His death moved many because of his youth and many churches are dedicated to him.  St Pancras, Old Church, London, which is not far away is probably one of the earliest sites of Christian worship in this country.


Just as the railways are everywhere in Britain, so the Christian faith, as a cursory look at a few stations shows, has moulded and shaped a nation. In 2017 we would do well to recover those roots and to nurture them so that so many of the declining humane values such as service to others may begin to flourish more vigorously. So in the power of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, it is full steam ahead into 2018.


Fr Michael


Posted By: valerie

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