Visiting Orange Street Chapel, St. James's, London, England: With a Neoclassical Pediment, Founded in 1787; Rebuilt 1929
Chapel, with diverse historical associations, founded in the 18th century
[NB: Among the many notable buildings which are the subject of these hubpages, these may include religious buildings, described as churches, etc.; these descriptions centre on the buildings' architectural and historical interest. This visit occurred a number of years ago.]
Canadians visiting London may be familiar with the splendid Canada House, belonging to the Canadian High Commission in London, which faces Trafalgar Square, as does also the National Gallery. Behind the National Gallery is a small Neoclassical church building known as Orange Street Chapel (1).
This small building's features at its Orange Street elevation include a prominent pediment, the lines of which are broken by a rounded window arch. The structure is today somewhat dwarfed by the adjacent buildings. Orange Street Chapel has a number of interesting historical associations. The hymn — sung in English-speaking churches worldwide — 'Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee', was first sung at this site, composed by Augustus Toplady (1740-1778). Interestingly also, Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726/27) lived in a former building adjacent to Orange Street Chapel.
It is known that from 1693 Huguenots used to meet at this venue, as did Anglicans later. In the 17h century, the site of what is now Orange Street was on the estate of the Duke of Monmouth (2).
Since the Chapel's 1787 founding, its organization has been Congregational. The former Chapel complex previously occupied a larger site here; but it was rebuilt in a smaller size in 1929 (3). For many decades the building has been used by a small church group which holds to a number of interesting ideas; these include the notions that the famous British Union Jack flag is of Israelite provenance ('Jack' said to pertain to 'Jacob') and that The Queen is of Israelite ancestry (The Queen is said to descend from King David in the Old Testament); it is unclear how widely these notions are held beyond the group. Known, occasional congregants at Orange Street Chapel have in the past included former First Minister of Northern Ireland, the late Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley.
(In preparing for this very short article I was going to write about the building which for many years housed Foyle's Bookshop — of which I have vivid memories — on nearby Charing Cross Road, but this was demolished a few years ago; and when I recalled having passed Orange Street Chapel a number of years ago, I made it instead the subject of this hubpage.) London can be full of surprises; tucked away very short distances from world-renowned sights may be corners with a lot of history which the visitor might suddenly happen upon. The exterior of Orange Street Chapel also has some plaques displaying some of its intriguing historical information.
Located in St. James's within the City of Westminster, the Chapel is at Orange Street, London, WC2H7HR.
May 5, 2020
(1) It has also been known as Leicester Fields Chapel. See also: https://www.londonremembers.com/subjects/orange-street-chapel
(2) See also: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol20/pt3/pp109-111
(3) The former building had a pillared frontage and rose to 2 storeys; see plate 98 at: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol20/pt3/plate-98 Some sources differ as to the exact dates of the refurbishment and reconstruction of the building in the early 20th century.
Some sourcing: Wikipedia
Also worth seeing
London has such huge numbers of visitor attractions that I will refer to only a small fraction of the principal ones; these include: Trafalgar Square; the Houses of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster; Westminster Abbey; St. Paul's Cathedral; the Royal Albert Hall; and many others.
How to get there
United Airlines flies from New York Newark Airport to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Underground and train services link Heathrow Airport with Central London. Orange Street is fairly close to Charing Cross (Bakerloo, Northern and Jubilee Lines), Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly Lines) and Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines) Underground Stations. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada
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