A glimpse into why I loved indexes as a child. Part 1.

A glimpse into why I loved indexes as a child.

I still love indexes, what is there not to love about indexes? There is no such thing as a bad index in my view, and even if my view is incorrect.. Indexes always lead somewhere.. I think if the internet existed then like it does today, my younger self would have been in index heaven. I think it is becoming clear in my mind why I’m a walking talking font of mysterious obtained trivia. I’m not particularly good, or at least not better than the average man when it comes to pub quiz’s and the like, but I do have a knack of being able to answer obscure questions that nobody else knows the answer to…  I think my love of indexes has enabled me to come across as a lot more intelligent than I am in social situations in the past. One only has to glance at my curriculum vitae to realise I’m a lot dumber than I sometimes seem.   

I’ve found a few old books online that could help enhance my sightseeing experiences if I ever again find myself touring the streets of my city of birth-London. I am going to explore the indexes of the book and see where it leads. 

First of all a book called   ‘The Ghosts of Fleet Street’ by John Gore, with illustrations by Joseph Pike. I don’t know when it was published, but the title page gives a distinct clue as to when it wasn’t published..’Eyre and Spottiswoode Limited, His Majesty’s Printers, 9 East Harding Street, London, E.C. 4′  (It seems it was printed in 1928.)  

In the index I have noticed ‘The Great Plague’ … I am going to copy out a few paragraphs from that section of the book and find something that interests me and see where it leads… 

‘Nevill’s Court, is, in my view, the least advertised and best hidden nook in all London. Even the Great Fire of 1666 failed to discover it. There are in it walls as ancient as the sixteenth century. The name of the court is derived from Ralph Neville, Bishops of Chichester in 1222, who owned land here—an inn, I suppose. 

Look over the wall at the old houses on your left. Parts of one or two of them survive the Great Fire ; you will note how gloriously restoration-like they overhang in the top storeys. And if you watch you will find something very romantic in the faces that peer out at you from those mysterious windows. 

No. 10 was known in the old days as “the Great House in Nevill’s Alley,” and was probably built just after the Great Fire. It was bought by the Moravians (whose chapel we are just coming to) in 1774, and used as a meeting-house, and Richard Baxter preached in it. So, later on, did Wesley and Whitefield. In the gardens, I think, the bones of many children lie, whose names are recorded in the chapel. 

Feel your way slowly past this house until, opposite the tiny greengrocer’s shanty, you see a dingy door marked “Moravian Chapel.” Push inside, fearing no man, and you will find yourself in the dingiest and best hidden court in all London. The bare building opposite you is the Moravian Chapel (which you must enter from Fetter Lane) and some of the buildings of this court date back to Heaven knows when. 

Leave this court and pass on into Fetter Lane, and enter No. 32 if you are interested in a very curious piece of real old England, real old human nature. 

The general secretary of the Moravian Missions on the first floor will courteously show you round. 

This very chapel (which, by the way, is so well concealed that Mr. Beresford Chancellor could not find it and believed it non-existent) was built in Queen Elizabeth’s reign for Presbyterian worship, and Praize-God Barebone (uncle of “Damned” Barebone rich and erratic architect and builder, of Crane Court) thundered and preached here. 

You would not think so, to glance at its severe and unromantic interior, and, of course, even the structure has been much restored and altered, yet it has a continuous history as a place of worship, for in 1662 the Nonconformist martyrs of the Act of Uniformity took over the chapel and worshipped here in their own manner and nobly, indeed,  did their first minister, John Turner, work among the poor during the Great Plague.’

I really don’t want to stop.. two more paragraphs… 

‘After the Nonconformists came the Independents, formed by Goodwin, the expelled President of Magdalen College, Oxford, and this body remained continuously until 1732. During their reign the chapel was half gutted by fire in the Sacheverell Riots. Baptists used it for a few years until 1740, when the Moravians first leased it. 

Of the Moravians I need not say much. They are sprung from the disciples of Johann Huss of the fifteenth century. They were often persecuted and expelled from place to place in Austria, and were settled in England in 1738 by Count Zinzendorf. They are famous for their mission work, well known in America, and own perhaps two-score chapels in this country. This chapel was their first meeting-house in England and, as I have shown you, is not only the oldest meeting-house now standing in all England, but can show continuous usage, and stands, I think as a very remarkable monument to men’s loyalty to their religious beliefs and unswerving courage and persistence om the face of persecution, ridicule and indifference. 

You emerge again into Fetter Lane, a narrow but busy street which connects Holburn with Fleet Street. You must not despise it, for it has an illustrious history, and was once one of the most important streets in Old London—perhaps for the reason that it was a famous pawnbroking quarter in Jacobean days.’

I don’t want to stop. But I hope you enjoyed taking a glimpse of why I love indexes. 

I have a horrible feeling that if I visited Nevill’s Court now, it might be a lot different to the picture painted above. 

Time to brew some more tea.. There are so many areas of interest mentioned in all of that.. It is hard to know what to search for in my preferred ‘search engine’ next…   


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