Whilst both St Mary’s and Christ Church opened their doors during the London wide Open House Weekend, it was St Mary’s chance to shine.
Visitors were spoilt for choice over the weekend, with graveyard tours, talks, live music, Wild Wanstead nature trails and much more besides. Plus some spectacular home-made cakes. The highlight for many was however a rare chance to go down into the crypt, last opened to the public in 2015.
Like Charon, but without demanding payment, James and Sian Paterson led a seemingly never ending queue down into the crypt. Lit up with twinkling fairy lights, the tunnel looked surprisingly festive and there were plenty of intrepid younger visitors. The history was fascinating and of particular interest was the ‘heart in the jar’ (belonging to John Child, the 2nd Earl Tylney) and the ‘bodysnatched grave’. My favourite was however the Rector’s family vault.
When we – unlike Charon’s passengers – emerged into the sunlight, my son and I then hunted amongst the graves for the watchman’s sentry box – used to shelter the watchmen keeping an eye out for bodysnatchers.
The church also had some interesting visitors. Making their debut in the church pews were some perspex silhouettes – part of the There But Not There campaign to remember fallen soldiers. Expect to see more of these popping up as we approach Remembrance Sunday.
With over 300 visitors just on the Saturday alone, the Open House was a great success. Huge thanks must go to all the volunteers at both churches who gave up their time and weekend to put on this event.