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Archbishop’s sermon on East End rioting at St George-in-the-East

PUBLISHED: 16:02 15 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:28 05 October 2010

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THE archbishop of Canterbury is coming to London’s East End to give a sermon about rioting. Dr Williams will be in the right neighbourhood for rioting, addressing the congregation at St George-in-the-East in Shadwell, scene of the infamous Ritual riots’ of 1859

ABOVE: The riots at Shadwell in 1859 and (inset) Archbishop of Canterbury who revisits the scene next Wednesday...

BELOW: Scott Norwood Witts’ self-portrait posing as St George in his Roman Legionnaire’s tunic being unveiled at the East End church dedicated to the saint...

By Mike Brooke

THE archbishop of Canterbury is coming to London’s East End to give a sermon about rioting.

Dr Rowan Williams will be in the right neighbourhood for rioting, addressing the congregation at St George-in-the-East in Shadwell.

This is the hotspot where the East End rose up against Mosley’s Blackshirt fascists attempting to march through Cable Street in 1936, barely a stone’s throw from the church.

St George’s was also the scene of the infamous Ritual riots’ that ran Sunday by Sunday for 14 months between May 1859 and July the following year. Questions were even asked in Parliament.

Thousands of people stormed the church bringing in their dogs, lighting pipes setting fire to furniture, heckling and catcalling throughout the sermons and singing rival songs during the hymns. It was all because the Rector had changed the style of worship to something more resembling Roman practice. That would be hard to imagine in today’s East End.

Dr Williams speaks from the pulpit next Wednesday evening (January 20) to mark the 150th anniversary of the riots.

He is also unveiling an incredible self-portrait of St George, England’s patron saint, or rather the artist posing as the saint that the church is dedicated to.

The life-size portrait by Scott Norwood Witts depicts St George in his white Roman Legion tunic with the red Cross of St George borrowed from later Mediaeval English knights.

The 5ft work has been loaned to the church and is going on show until March 18.

Scott’s self-portrait of St George chips away the myth of the canonised soldier being the patron of the Crusades, or even the symbol of Far Right nationalist extremism.

That is the dragon Scott hopes his St George defiantly puts to the sward.


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