Commemorating our past

One of the wonderful things about St Bride’s is that we are continually uncovering new and remarkable characters from our past.

Recently, two people in particular have stood out and we have chosen to commemorate them with permament stone memorial plaques.

Denis Papin (1647 – 1713)

The first was Denis Papin – one of the most significant pioneering figures in the history of steam engineering. Papin invented the steam digester, a precursor of the steam engine, and the pressure cooker but the significance of his work was not recognised during his lifetime. (More on this story…)

Papin died a pauper and was thought to be buried in an unmarked grave. However, in 2016, a record came to light in the London Metropolitan Archives that he was in fact buried here at St Bride’s on 26th August 1713.

Following a campaign spearheaded by steam-roller enthusiast Martin Clarke, funds were raised for a memorial plaque to Papin, carved by stone-letterer Tom Young, which was installed in January 2019 at the West End of St Bride’s.

Its official unveiling will take place at a public event on Wednesday 26th February at 3:00 pm. We shall be welcoming Martin, representatives from the Royal SocietyOld Glory Magazine, and the London Metropolitan Archives and a distinguished group of French visitors including representatives of the ‘Papin’ railway club in Papin’s home town, Chitenay, the Association Denis Papin, and the two Mayors of Chitenay and Blois.

Mary Ann Nichols (1845 – 1888)

The second person rediscovered from our past was Mary Ann Nichols. ‘Polly’ Nichols was born in our parish, a few hundred yards from the church, and was married here in 1864. Tragically, history has remembered her solely for the appalling circumstances of her death rather than for her life (she was the first known victim of the unknown Victorian serial killer, ‘Jack the Ripper’).

In August 2018 we held a special service to address that injustice, and remember her instead for her own story. That tragic story has many parallels with the plight of disadvantaged women in London today. (More on this story…)

Subsequently it was decided to erect a permanent memorial to her and our master stonemason, Tom Young, is hard at work on another memorial plaque for yet another of our historic former parishioners. As soon as the plaque is completed we shall plan a commemorative service for its unveiling.

Posted On: Thursday 30th January, 2020

congregation sitting for service


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