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  • Writer's pictureSt Giles Online

London's Hidden Heart

Wil James looks forward to a season of events to celebrate the history of the parish, coninciding with the launch of St Giles-in-the-Fields: History of a London Parish later this year.

In the coming months, we will be spending a lot of time looking backwards at St Giles. I realise that this is not, perhaps, the most encouraging message to receive at the start of a New Year, when our culture tells us that we must – at all costs – throw out the old and look to the future! But in a place so affected by the chances and changes of nearly 1,000 years of recorded history, it is never really possible to escape the past at St Giles. In 2024, that will be more true than ever.

In the Spring, we will launch a new book – St. Giles-in-the-Fields: History of a London Parish. This represents the culmination of four years of hard labour on the part of its authors Rebecca Preston and Andrew Saint and brings to fruition a project inaugurated by our former Rector, Rev. Alan Carr, back in 2018. 

The inspiration for this project is to help us rediscover a sense of place amid the convergence of streets, buildings and people that we call St Giles. Although sponsored by the church, this is not a history of the church alone and the intended audience encompasses all those who are curious about the neighbourhood that is at the very heart of London, yet little known, even by many people who call this city their home.

Having been involved in steering this project from the beginning, I am very much looking forward to holding a copy of our new history in my hands. But the blocks of paper and card that will soon be heading our way from the printers are not an end in themselves. Just as history is made up of people, so this project is really all about people who will benefit from it: the local residents who can gain a new appreciation of their locality, and those further afield who may come to learn about St Giles for the first time.

In a strange way, writing history is closely tied up with the present and the future – how we think and feel about this parish today and what it will mean to people in years to come. To that end, the book is also serving as a springboard to develop a new interact guide to the church and the parish, supported by Bloomberg Connects (link below). This will serve as a living legacy and a free resource for exploring our shared history.

Ensuring the launch is a success will be a team effort. I am currently looking for volunteers to help spread the word about the book and to get involved in the series of events that we have planned around the book and app launch.

We have an amazingly erudite and learned congregation, so I have no doubt that there are plenty of people for whom the history project will spark interest. In particular, we need people to act as ambassadors for the St Giles Connects App, as well as those willing to help out with the launch events in May. Please get in touch and volunteer your services.

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