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Midwinter In Spitalfields

December 20, 2020
by the gentle author

The inexorable descent into winter darkness is upon us, even if we have reached the solstice and days will start to lengthen now. At this season, I am more aware of light than at any other – especially when the city languishes under an unremitting blanket of low cloud, filtering the daylight into a grey haze that casts no shadow.

Yet on some recent mornings I have woken to sunlight and it always lifts my spirits to walk out through the streets under a clear sky. On such days, the low-angled sunshine and its attendant deep shadow conjures an exhilarating drama.

In these particular conditions of light, walking from Brick Lane down Fournier St is like advancing through a cave towards the light, refracting around the vast sombre block of Christ Church that guards the entrance. The street runs from east to west and, as the sun declines, its rays enter through the churchyard gates next to Rectory illuminating the houses opposite and simultaneously passing between the pillars at the front of the church to deliver light at the western end where it meets Commercial St.

For a spell, the shadows of the stone balls upon the pillars at the churchyard gate fall upon the houses on the other side of the street and then the rectangle of light, admitted between the church and the Rectory, narrows from the width of a house to single line before it fades out. At the junction with Commercial St, the low-angled sun directed through the pillars in the portico of Christ Church casts tall parallel bars of light and shade that travel down Fournier St from the Ten Bells as far as number seven, reflecting off the window panes to to create a fleeting pattern like stars within the gloom of the old church wall.

As you can see from these photographs, I captured these transient effects of light with my camera to share with you as a keepsake of winter sunshine, for consolation when those clouds descend again.

The last ray

The shadow of the cornice of Christ Church upon the Rectory

The shadow of the pillars of Christ Church upon Fournier St

Windows in Fournier St reflecting upon the church wall

In Princelet St

You may also like to read about

Midwinter At Christ Church Spitalfields

A View of Christ Church Spitalfields

17 Responses leave one →
  1. December 20, 2020

    Hope you are staying safe and have a meaningful Christmas that offers hope and love. You give so much pleasure and interest to others and I am grateful to read all your posts, be blessed ❤️

  2. Herry Lawford permalink
    December 20, 2020

    Love the search for light and shade at the equinox

  3. Jude permalink
    December 20, 2020

    You’ve captured lovely atmosphere. Particularly like the reflections on the church.
    Want to also take the opportunity to thank you for your blog and say Merry Christmas and let’s hope our lives improve next year. Don’t expect it will ever return to how it was before and a new ‘normal’ will be created. All my Best Wishes x

  4. December 20, 2020

    Distinct lack of people, reminds me of those eerie Victorian photos of big cities..but no people..

  5. December 20, 2020

    If I ever go back to London, my first visit will be – thanks to to you – to Spitalfields. Thank you, as usual.

  6. Tosh Brice permalink
    December 20, 2020

    Thank you so much for sharing this – and for a superb year of blogs and publications!

  7. December 20, 2020

    Near the winter solstice, I often find myself leaving the house with the sun just rising over the terrace opposite and shining directly into the doorway which faces east, then returning as the sun sets behind the garages at the back with shadows of the chimneys on my kitchen wall.

    Merry Christmas and a happy new year all.

  8. December 20, 2020

    A Merry Christmas to The Gentle Author and all Visitors of the SPITALFIELDS-LIFE-Website!

    May the New Year 2021 be a much better one than this “Annus Horribiles”, which please can happily f*** off!

    All the Best to You in 2021!

    Love & Peace

  9. December 20, 2020

    Holiday greetings from Boston,

    GA, so true –“The inexorable descent into winter darkness is upon us, even if we have reached the equinox and days will start to lengthen now.” The “dark days before Christmas” will pass and we will make our inevitable journey into spring.

    Special greetings to you and all of you enduring those “Tier 4” restrictions in London and beyond. Every ray of light lifts the spirit and you provide so many in your daily posts.

  10. Lesley Hudswell permalink
    December 20, 2020

    Beautiful buildings and light, but not a single green thing.

  11. December 20, 2020

    A wonderful post. I love circumstances that put us into wonderful positions to observe and savor people/places/things that would have normally been missed. For instance, a pre-dawn drive to catch an early flight. As I back out of our driveway, I am awash in those “stay-at-home” thoughts of reluctance and regret. “harumph…..WHY did I book this trip anyhow?
    I could be under my warm covers right now……..”. But as I drive on, I witness the stillness of a cornfield in the moonlight, and a deer pausing at the edge of the road, and eventually the reward of a luminous sunrise. With each sighting, I am pulled forward — More into the flow of “going”, and soon I forget “staying”. (if that makes any sense) Your photos brought that forward — how it feels to venture out, on a solitary excursion , filled with the urge to capture beauty and share it. Happy Holidays, all.

  12. Moyra Peralta permalink
    December 20, 2020

    Can but only endorse ALL the above comments. Beautifully seen and captured. (Plus, loved the war medals / GUN story, just discovered.)

  13. paul loften permalink
    December 20, 2020

    The light affects us in so many ways. I recall my first job interview on leaving school in the late 60’s and walking through the narrow, light-starved streets in Leadenhall Street to a bank that the agency had sent me to. The strange shadows cast by the buildings left me feeling nervous and apprehensive On entering the bank and seeing the dull Victorian surroundings, clerks with their heads down, silently at their work, I was immediately filled with gloom and despair, A gentleman with mutton-chop whiskers handed me a maths test paper which I failed miserably. At the interview I recall him saying to me “I never thought a boy from Parmiter’s school could be so bad at maths.” I remember the feeling of pleasure walking back by way of Bishopsgate to the bus stop, thinking that was not a job for me.

  14. Beverly Sand permalink
    December 20, 2020

    Thank you so much for this winter light in the general darkness and for your wonderful blogs. Your knowledge and endless curiosity are so uplifting. Have a great Christmas, stay safe, and keep on writing and studying!

  15. December 21, 2020

    Dear GA..the last time I was in London was on your course in Fournier Street back in March. I feel that I have a personal relationship with the road in which my step daughter Amber(Rip) once lived in Rodney Archer’s house. Remembering vividly the last time I was there in 2015 climbing the stairs to her rooms in the upper space. I have always loved living in the Surrey Hills. But looked forward to Spitalfields virtually weekly. This blog makes me realise how much I miss it .

  16. ella permalink
    December 21, 2020

    Thank you very much for these wonderful picutures, sparkling with catched light! And anyway for your heartwarming notes every day, it’s a pleasure for me, as I don’t live in the city and would like to be there! Ella

  17. Sophia Ballantyne permalink
    December 22, 2020

    As a native Londoner, your article served to underpin my opinion that life outside this city is a blessed relief by not being hemmed in by those buildings! Wasn’t it so much worse in the days of endless fog, though?

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