Tuesday, March 06, 2007

St. Barnabas, Kenilworth

For a little variety, here's something only about a hundred years old. In 1905, this corrugated iron church, St. Barnabas, was erected on Albion Street as a mission church of St. Nicholas, the ancient parish church in Abbey Fields. Albion Street was, and is, a working-class neighborhood, with characterless apartment buildings, a convenience store, and—in the span of less than half a mile—five pubs. There's the Albion Tavern, the British Legion Club (visible across from the church), the Wyandotte Inn, the Cottage Inn, and the Engine (near the railroad tracks). We often go to the friendly butcher shop and greengrocer on Albion Street, and on Monday we stopped for lunch at the Cottage Inn. The smoke-filled pub was full of pensioners enjoying their senior citizen's discount, and a Royal Mail postman stood a few feet away from our table sipping his Carling and playing the fruit machine (i.e., a slot machine). I had a big plate of sausage, egg, and chips and a pint of bitter. This was another typically English experience. More typical, in fact, than attending church. At the end of the Victorian age, most residents of this neighborhood got no further on Sunday mornings than their favorite local pub, and the temperance-minded Church of England decided that the solution was to build a mission church on Albion Street. The church offered Bible study for "men and lads" on Sunday afternoons and a temperance meeting on Mondays. Judging from the crowds spilling from the Wyandotte across the street on Sundays, a hundred years of having St. Barnabas in the neighborhood hasn't hurt business at the local pubs.

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