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All Saints' and St Nicholas' Churches

Church of England, Poplar, London

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Church Mouse Blog - Chapter 2 (Easter to Summer 2007)

This blog records all of the important, memorable or disastrous events which occur at All Saints and in the Parish of Poplar. It therefore provides a narrative and pictorial record of the people and events in Poplar.

INDEX to Chapter 2    
Life in the 1500's Isn't it ridiculous Annual Parochial Church meeting
White Sunday 1+1+1=1 Goodbye e e e (to Henderson)
Farewell to Pinkney Confirmation Sunday July 3rd 1823
You can find God anywhere We are the future  
13th April

Life in the 1500's


I thought I'd get this edition of the blog off to a good start with some useless information about life in the good old days! This should make you thankful that we live in a modern society, even if it does a bit cold in the boiler house at this time of year (whilst the boss is on a beach in Thailand)

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May (the begining of Spring) and were still smelling pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the b.o.

Baths equalled a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so
dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water".

Houses had thatched roofs. Thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets... dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs lived in the roof. When it rained it
became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. So, they found if they made beds with big posts and hung a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem. Hence those beautiful big 4 poster beds with canopies.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors which would get slippery in the winter when wet. So they spread thresh on the floor to help keep their footing.
As the winter wore on they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed at the entry way, hence a "thresh hold".

They cooked in the kitchen in a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They mostly ate vegetables and didn't get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner leaving leftovers
in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been in there for a month. Hence the rhyme: "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they could obtain pork and would feel really special when that happened. When company came over, they would bring out some bacon and hang it to show it off. It was a sign of wealth and that a man "could really bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food. This happened most often with tomatoes, so they stopped eating tomatoes... for 400 years.

Most people didn't have pewter plates, but had trenchers - a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms got into the wood. After eating off wormy trenchers, they would get"trench mouth." (Painful ulcers found along gum line, caused by poor nutrition and poor hygiene)

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the "uppercrust".

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake".

England is old and small, and they started running out of places to bury people. So, they would dig up coffins and would take their bones to a house and re-use the grave. In reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realised they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on their wrist and lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would
have to sit out in the graveyard all night to listen for the bell. Hence on the"graveyard shift" they would know that someone was "saved by the bell" or he was a "dead ringer".

26th April

Isn't it ridiculous!


Did you see in a recent copy of The Times that the Number 10 web site for e-petitions had removed the petition asking for free travel for mice (sic), because it was outside the remit of the prime Minister to provide. If Tony can't fix free travel for mouses - who can? Perhaps we need to have a national day of prayer over the issue. Talking of which I hear that in the near future there will be a huge prayer rally in the West Ham stadium. Will God turn up is the big question? Some people think he has forgotten the way to West Ham - but after the rally who knows what may happen to the football played there. See you at the Annual Parish meeting this coming Sunday - and don't forget to fill out your Parish Roll form so we can see who our members and regulars are. All 49 of us mouses will be on parade.


1st May

The Annual Parochial Church Meeting


The theme this year was "thank you" to all of the people who work at keeping the community spirit alive at All Saints. So many people give their time to keep the wheels turning. I'm grateful that Philippa and Fred are staying on as Church Wardens for another year - but they do need some help. The main message was the need for our giving or fund raising to go up again this year a significant amount. We will need to increase our contributions to the Diocese and also find more money for the heating bill, which seems to go higher as global warming becomes more evident.

Nice to hear that we have now sorted out the old charities, so once more we mouses can all receive free bread once a year. Brian reported that the choir had doubled in size this last year - and most of them can even sing in tune! It really is good to be a part of the family in Poplar. As the Bishop said "We are one of the big shows in Tower Hamlets", with the boss as the ring master, and all 49 of us mouses doing our stuff, we have to agree. (I'm a little worried that the Bishop in fact said "shower" rather than "show", but whatever, today is the day to give thanks).

Which takes me on the subject of anniversaries. This is a significant moment - did you know that -
400 years ago the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Blackwall to found America.
300 years ago the Union was formed between Scotland and England.
200 years ago slavery was abolished.
186 years ago All Saints was built.
50 years ago Brian started playing our organ.
13 years ago Alan became the boss here.

How time flies. Here's to another year of grace and God's presence with us here in Poplar.

27th May

White Sunday


So now at last we have arrived at Pentecost - WhitSunday it was always called when I was a nipper. Traditionally it has always been the second most important Sunday in the calandar, and many people used to be baptised at this time. Now we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit - and don't we need more of her at this time - to nuture, challenge and empower the Church.

As this part of the year comes to a close and we face the long hot summer, it is good to give thanks for some of the back-stage people who make the life of All Saints so rich. Trudy Keyte spends most Sundays down in the crypt with us mouses, although her main task is to organise the Junior Church and help our youngsters to grow and come to a full understanding of how Jesus fits into our life. Trudy is one of many people who work each week behind the scenes. Perhaps it is my job to highlight their work and record how grateful we are for quiet and regular service. Thanks Trudy. (Don't forget you promised me a nice biscuit for this!). Next week look out for shocking revelations as to what goes on in the vestry before the service.
Trusy Keyte

3rd June



Yes, today is Trinity Sunday, and they had to bring in one of the big guns from the Cathedral to preach to us about it. But then, who could be intimidated by a canon called Lucy?! The occasion, of course, was the first celebration by Father John following his priesting yesterday. It's amazing, a whole year has passed, and John has grown through his D'arth Vador phase and is becoming quite a cuddley sort of - doctor + philosopher + priest = friend.

Vetrsy dressing up time I did promise last week to reveal what goes on in the vestry before the service starts. First we need to recognise the amazing faithfulness of Janice (pictured here) and her husband John (not pictured here!) in maintaining, cleaning and generally looking after all of the robes, vestements and paraphanlia the sanctuary rats love to dress up in for the services. Unfortunately (probably because most of them are men), they find it very difficult to put things on the right way round and then tie the girdles around their generous waists. So this is where Janice comes in (and John at times) in helping the poor dears to get dressed. It really is a scene as these prima donnas prepare for the grand entrance, striding down the aisle behind the thurifer (or chief stinker as he's known in the boiler room). This week in green, next week in white, and then let's all dress up in red for a change. You have to laugh (as Father Tom shows us), but seriously, John and Janice are worth their weight in gold for faithfully looking after us. Thanks to you both.
17th June

Goodbye e e e e e e e


One of the hallmarks of All Saints is that we are a "Giving Church".We raise significant sums for charities, both local and international. We give of our time to help the local community, and we give away our people. Many have started training in our Church or grown in the faith and then left for pastures new. Today we had to say goodbye to Linda and Henderson George. Henderson started coming to All Saints 30 years ago. Then after being a server, he trained to become a Reader, and finally went on (after retiring as a school master) to become a priest. In a week or so he will be ordained at St. Paul's and so leaves us to take up a curate post at St. James' in Clapton

So now we have to remove him from page 3 of the staff list and put him here to remain even after he has left. So today he preached his last sermon and then everyone came down to join us mouses in the crypt for a farewell do. We will miss both of you!

Now we have to get ready for next week when the Bishop comes and the Church will overflow for the confirmation service. Alan is going to tannoy the service into the crypt (so we mouses can see all that's going on in comfort) and also out into the street. He might even invoke the old by-law which allows us to stop the traffic on the A13 for the duration of the service!

If you happen to be passing next Sunday why not stop and join in, the food and drinks afterwards will be a real treat, with plenty left over for us mouses to gorge on. Hey ho - its summer and all is well.
Love, Wifred

Henrson George
21st June

Farewell to Pinkney

  Not many of you will know that the boss has adopted a little elephant called Pinkey. Now we hear the news that she has been released into the wilds of Sri Lanka. This is an ideal opportunity to start our adopt a mouse scheme. For a mere 50p a week extra in the collection plate you can adopt your very own mouse from All Saints. Thus you can at one stroke protect wildlife and increase the Church's income. We will produce certificates so you can not only know which mouse you have adopted, but you will be free to come down into the boiler room for tea with the mouses on Saturday afternoons in advent, when it isn't raining. I am putting up Wilhemina as the first candidate for adoption - no reasonable offer refused!
24th June

Its Confirmation Sunday


Wow, what a party! The Bishop came to confirm the 45 candidates, and the Church was packed with family and supporters. The boss got the service televised down into the crypt so all us mouses could watch in comfort, along with people who arrived late and coudn't get a seat upstairs.

Bishop Steven

The Bishop (Stephen of Stepney - pictured here) had a good time and ran the whole show with expertise, showmanship and consideration. The Church was packed and the overflow came downstairs where Father Tom gave a running commentary as we watched the huge TV set. Despite the large numbers, the service rattled along and after it was all over, and the photographs taken, we went down to the crypt for excellent eats and liquid refreshments.

The whole day was a culmination of really hard work by a large number of people, but above all we recognise that the boss (Father Alan to you) has worked his socks off and almost given himself a nervous breakdown. But it was all worth it, and if you want to see some of the photos go to the special confirmation page.

So now the summer can really begin, even though much of the country is flooded, and many of our East End folk will be off to the Essex coast for sojourns in the family caravan. The life of the Church will go on, day by day, and many people will be quietly working to keep the show on the road. Come back during the next few weeks for more details of these hidden saints.

1st July

July 3rd 1823


Next week we celebrate our Dedication Festival. It's 190 years since the Parish was founded and 184 years since All Saints' Church was opened. Several fires, V-bombs and Rectors later and we are still here! We will be addressed by Father Appleford who rumour has it was a curate in th Church in the 1950's - and still going strong. He has written a new hymn just for All Saints and this anniversary - so why not go to the special page for this dedication and work out which line refers to me (a clue - look at the last verse, near the end).

Young Father John preached again today all about Beatrix Potter! I suppose it makes a change from Darth Vador, and indicates that he has been to the Cinema again recently. At least it means that us mouses are kept up to date. So today is July 1st and will be remembered as No Smoking day. For the first time we could see each other across the crypt. Father Alan was getting rid of the ash-trays which are now redudant. I saved three in the boiler roon which I will auction on e-bay someday unless someone makes me an offer I can't refuse.

8th July

You can find God anywhere

  It was a real honour to have Father Patrick Appleford return to us and preach at our Dedication service. Patrick was a curate in the parish 50 years ago, and is still active in the Diocese of Chelmsford. In his sermon one of the things he reminded us was that we can always find God in people and in places. Wherever we are we can find God. Of course I could have told him that - as many of you will know God often comes down to the boiler room and shares some crumbs and fellowship with us mouses. It's a real comfort to know that whatever is happening, however dark it seems, God will be there if you reach out for Him. Patrick writes some lovely hymns and as I have already told you can find the latest one written especially for us today on the Dedication Service page elsewhere on this site.

Today we also formally welcomed four new youngsters into the choir - they seem to keep multipying ( a bit like us mouses really), so today there were 20 chanting away up in the organ loft. Soon they will have to build an extension! Today the Boss took the opportunity to thank the many people "behind the scenes" for all their hard work. As you know it's part of my mission to give these people a bit of an airing, so next week watch out for what goes on in the Church office.

The Boss is a bit thick at times! I indicated that Father Patrick specifically included us mouses in his new All Saints Dedication Service hymn, and he can't see where mouses are mentioned. Well, like all good writers, Father Appleford uses metaphor, analogy and hints rather than "in your face obvious". So for example he talks about the saints below and above, obviously referring to those up in the Church and also us mouses down below in the crypt. He also talks about us "old disciples having fun" in the last verse. Seems obvious to me.
15th July

"We are the future" and so the summer begins.

This old mouse had one of those "moments" in Church this morning. The Church was packed for the leaving service of year 6 from St Saviour's School. During the communion these fresh 11 year olds sang "We are the future" and I suddenly realised - in that case I am the past!
The Church was packed again, three times in as many weeks with confirmation, dedication and now school leavers. The people will now drain away to Tenerife or Southend until the schools go back in September. This is a time for tidying up and taking stock. It is so nice staying in London in August. The streets are quiet, plenty of room on the buses and a relaxed feeling amongst those of us who choose to stay.
Pip the Church Warden

I had promised to fill you in on the work behind the scenes in All Saints, but as I am now in a holiday mood I'll just leave you in the capable hands of the Church Wardens. Philippa (pictured here) and Fred work very very hard throughout the week to keep the boss in order and do all the unseen tasks that are needed to keep the show on the road. So a big thank you to them both and we hope you get a rest this summer.

Updated 24-Dec-2008   Home >> Church Mouse Blog Index >> Blog 2 Easter to Summer 2007