A reminiscence of Margaret Street

There is concern about a school in Birmingham which, it is asserted, is being targeted by Muslim extremists. A teacher was quoted, earlier in the week, saying that “there is some gender segregation in religious assemblies”.

All Saints' Anglican Church, Margaret Street, London W1

All Saints’ Anglican Church, Margaret Street, London W1


About fifty years ago “gender segregation” came to an end at All Saints’, Margaret Street, in London’s West End. For many years the congregation had divided, male and female, on either side of the nave in the front part of the church. This had been one of those examples of ‘correctness’ which the Catholic revival in the Church of England, the ‘Oxford Movement’, had sought to encourage. In the early 60’s I went with my aunt to the celebration of Candlemas on 2nd February. Although the custom of separation had been given up I seem to remember that she was the only woman sitting on our side of the church. The choir school was still going, and the boys wore very short cottas, eton collars, and purple socks to match their cassocks. Choir schools and daily sung services had also been part of the Revival. And now? Even the English Cathedrals are struggling financially to keep their choirs. In any case fifty years of ‘pop music’ have left the British unable to sing, so even if they can find the money, the Cathedrals can no longer find the boys to fill the choir stalls.

The men and boys choir at Margaret Street

The men and boys choir at Margaret Street

But for a moment, back to that February day at Margaret Street. As we hovered after Mass a tall lady in a long fur coat hurried down the centre aisle saying loudly, ‘Has Mr Gorse gorn?’ (For the younger generation and overseas readers, you should know that in English as spoken by the upper classes at that time, words like ‘lost’ and ‘cross’ and ‘gone’ were pronounced to rhyme with ‘mourn’ or ‘lawn’ – a cross between the two … ) A few years later my aunt sent me the Notice of Death from the Daily Telegraph of the said Mr Gorse, and the date and time for his funeral at All Saints’. But she could not resist writing in the margin, ‘Mr Gorse has finally gorn.’

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About Scott Anderson

Formerly an Anglican priest (ordained 1975) received into the Catholic Church in February 2012, and ordained to the Diaconate on 27th July 2013. I took early retirement, and divide my time between London and northern France. I am deeply committed to the Ordinariate as a gift of the Holy Spirit in the search for unity. Like many Ordinariate members I feel a personal gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict, together with loyalty to our Holy Father, Pope Francis. My blog tries to make a small contribution to the growth of the Ordinariate by asking questions (and proposing some answers) about the 'Anglican Patrimony'. I have always been fascinated by the whole issue of growth and decline, and therefore concerned for appropriate means of evangelisation in western Europe. I believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing the People of God and that we must be open to him. My love of music and motorcycles will occasionally surface in my posts. On Saturday 19th October 2013, I was ordained to the Priesthood at Most Precious Blood, Borough, by the Most Revd Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, for the service of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham. I continued to serve the Ordinariate group and Parish at Most Precious Blood until the end of 2014. Subsequently, I helped in the care of the Ordinariate Groups at Hemel Hempstead and Croydon, and in the Archdiocese of Southwark, until the beginning of September 2015. With the agreement of my Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, the Bishop of Amiens appointed me Administrator of the Parish of Notre Dame des Etangs (Pont Remy) in Picardie, France. This appointment is to last for a year, to give the Bishop the opportunity to assess the future of the parish.
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2 Responses to A reminiscence of Margaret Street

  1. Harry says:

    Ah, happy days, High Mass at Margaret Street, and then off to lunch. During the week there was always Mowbrays book shop just round the corner. I remember going there for the first time, on a visit to London from Aberdeen, to buy the Manual of Catholic Devotion, the English Missal and a rosary.

  2. Alan Robinson says:

    Fascinating to remember that the English Missal was on the shelves as a new book in Mowbrays in 1973 for £1.50 – as were many other classics, now rare and valuable. Did many anglo-catholic churches have segregation ? I knew a Roman Catholic church which used to have the “men’s benches” near the back on the Epistle side.

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