Parishioners warm up with ale for Bow Church 700th anniversary carols

Draughty old churches have a certain attraction in London’s East End when they hold their 700th anniversary Christmas carol service—especially if the parish revises a once-notorious ale fair from the Middle Ages.

Parishioners packed Bow Church for Sunday’s service led by the new Archdeacon of Hackney, The Venerable Rachel Treweek, which was followed by 700 years of carols including the 14th century ‘In Dulci Jubilo’ and 15th century ‘To Us A Child Is Born,’ led by choirmaster Simon Herbert and church organist and jazz musician Peter Marshall.

Worshippers may have felt the draught in the ancient St Mary’s church in the middle of the Bow Road, but had been warmed up with mulled wine at an ale fair revised for the 700th anniversary.

An annual ale fair was held in a field nearby until its rowdy reputation forced closure in the 17th century, when the site became a lunatic asylum and later a Victorian workhouse before the Bryant & May match factory was built at what is now the Bow Quarter housing complex.

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