I look incredulously at people who have told me, “No I’ve never seen Star Wars” (substitute Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones etc). However if the boot should be on the other foot, how many people would have the same reaction when I say, “No I’ve never seen Friends“?
I know the premise, set in the 1990s, a group of twenty somethings living in Manhattan who together go through probably every life experience imaginable. If it’s one of your faves, then good for you.
Possibly one of my more bizarre openings to a post, and if I was reading it and not writing it, I think I’d be wondering how this was going to link in with the theme of this blog? Well I can assure you that I’ve not lost the plot and nobody was as surprised as me when wandering the riverside in Wapping of all places I came across a link with the series.
The area of Wapping sits to the east of the Tower of London. Back in Medieval times Wapping was a small strip of land bordered on one side by the River Thames and on the other by marshland. Over the centuries the marshes were drained and Wapping expanded northwards away from the river. In the 16th century the area was no more than a hamlet and there is evidence of quite a large Hermitage on its western side.
St John’s Wapping
The map above shows the area in the 18th century. The Hermitage buildings have long disappeared, however the place is commemorated in the name Great Hermitage Street. The gardens shown to the east of the street were probably the fruit and vegetable gardens adjoining the hermitage. In the south east corner is the church and grounds of St John’s Wapping. St John’s Church was originally built as a chapel-of-ease, a church that is used to supplement the congregation of the parish church, in this case in the bordering neighbourhood of Whitechapel in 1617. St John’s became the parish church when Wapping was constituted as a separate parish in 1694. This makes it the oldest church in Wapping. The present remains date to around 1756, when the church was rebuilt by Joel Johnson, who had trained as a carpenter. The church was badly damaged in the Second World War, leaving only a rectangular shell. The tower was restored in 1964 by the London County Council and the remainder converted into flats in the 1990s.
The adjacent park was once the burial grounds and still contains chest tombs and memorials to the Staple children, c. 1730, and to John Simpson, c. 1799 amongst others.
The church abuts St John’s Old School. The school was founded in 1695, but the present building dates back to 1756. On the front of the building are two of the finest statues made of traditional coade stone showing the pupils in the traditional uniforms of a Bluecoat charity school.
While I was researching the area I came across this little nugget of popular culture. The church features in Season 4, Episode 23 of Friends, “The One with Ross’s Wedding“. In that episode, Ross, Monica, and Emily approach a dilapidated church, where Ross and Emily are meant to be married, but are shocked to find that it is a building site, with the church in the process of being demolished. The exterior of St John’s Church is visible in the scene, although it is unlikely that the subsequent wedding was filmed onsite.