Hawksmoor part 3


I kept seeing more and more eyes as I walked on to the next church, the Eye of Horus following me. Or me following it. The most disconcerting was a shop sign of simply two slightly sinister eyes peering out to prospective customers.

Also as I kept walking the neighborhood started getting more economically stressed and, just like NY, more ethnic, though the population here is Arabic. The street on which St George-in-the-East sits is bordered on both sides with council housing, people sitting outside on steps next to clothes blowing on clotheslines. I felt uncomfortable and felt guilty about feeling uncomfortable. No one bothered me. A few people stared, but I was a stranger here and this was their home.

St George-in-the-East is another of the Hawksmoor churches associated with murder. In 1811 two infamous mass slayings happened in the shadow of the church, known as the Ratcliffe Highway Murders. Two families were killed inside their own homes, brutally and mercilessly. It is said that Hawksmoor had originally wanted to build the church on what would later be the site of the first murder. The bodies from the murders are buried in St George’s churchyard. Eventually they caught a lodger and convicted him of the killings, though theories abound on whether he was the actual murderer, the only murderer, or simply a scape goat. He committed suicide in prison (or was he murdered himself?) and his body was dragged through the streets by an angry mob, staked through the heart and then buried at the crossroads of Ratcliffe Highway and Canon Street (suicides, not to mention serial killers, were likely to turn into vampires and two ways to make sure THAT didn’t happen was to put a stake through the corpse’s heart and bury him at a crossroad. I guess it nailed him down and, if that didn’t work, confused him about which way to go. Vampires apparently aren’t the brightest bulbs on the monster Christmas tree).

Whether some mysterious force evoked such evil or the more mundane malevolence of poverty and urban violence were the actual triggers obviously can’t be proven, but it does add further fuel to the Hawksmoor fire.

The church itself looms much like the rest of the Hawksmoors. This is the other church with a pyramid on the grounds and I was eager to see this one as well. But as I ventured closer I saw a group of six or seven teenagers sitting on its base. Here was the question. Did I go up to the pyramid as if a gang of teenagers lounging around didn’t faze me? Or should I just give up and move on? After all I was in the middle of the projects and white in a non-white area. They could have knives. They could be doing drugs. Or, I scolded myself, they could just be kids like any other kids (of course, I don’t really like kids to begin with, but I didn’t think about that). I finally decided I was being unfair judging these boys and I’d be annoyed with myself if I’d just left, so I walked up to the pyramid and started taking pictures.


I stayed on the opposite side from where they were sitting, though they kept sneaking anxious glances at me. I ignored them. This pyramid wasn’t as striking as the one in St. Anne’s; it is on a pedestal and is carved with designs instead of stark like the other, though the designs are now covered in the ink of more modern artists.

“Can you even see it through the graffiti?” one of the boys said.

“I’m trying but it’s not easy,” I said.

“Are you a tourist?” another said.

“Not really,” I said, “I live here but only for a month now.”

“Where are you from?” asked another.

“No wait,” another one said, “let me guess. Australia?”

“Nope,” I said, “New York.”

The one who had spoken first said, “Hey, that’s great! My cousin lives in New York. If you want to see some really pretty views you should walk down this road. You get to the river and there are all these boats…”

“Actually,” I said, “I’m walking around to all the churches built by the guy who built this one. They’re all really weird. I mean, think about it. Who builds a pyramid in a churchyard?”

“He’s a freak!” the one with the NY cousin said.

“Hey,” said another one, “have you ever seen British cannabis?”

“Nope,” I said.

He showed me a giant handful of green. “You want some?”

“Thanks,” I said, “but, you know, I have asthma…”

“So do I!” said another one.

“And you’re still smoking?” I said. “You should be careful.”

“That’s why he has braces,” said another.

“No it’s not!” said the asthmatic braces wearer.

“Hey, do you want to take our picture?” said the one with the NY cousin.

“Sure, if you want me to.”

“OK!” he said, but no one else was quite so enthusiastic: “ARE YOU CRAZY??”

Someone else said, “Just please don’t tell the cops on us.”

I laughed. “I don’t care what you do. I’m not going to tell anyone.” They were relieved. (This, of course, turned out to be a lie since I’m reporting it here, but I don’t think they’d mind.)

“Well, have fun…” I said and they all said good-bye as I made my way out of the churchyard toward what is considered Hawksmoor’s masterpiece: Christ Church Spitalfields.

The moral of this story? Kids often are just kids, whether they’re getting high in a 7-11 parking lot sitting in a car or getting high in a churchyard sitting on a 275 year old pyramid built by a freak.


~ by kellly333 on March 4, 2007.

2 Responses to “Hawksmoor part 3”

  1. I don’t get the smoking leads to braces train of logic.

  2. I think you’re looking for logic where t’aint none to be found, my friend.

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