The Actor’s Church- St. Paul’s Convent Garden

What church in London has a long history with the theatre and arts? Which church contains memorials to some famous actors and actresses? It is St. Paul’s in Convent Garden.

St. Paul’s has a long association with the theatre and arts community. Since about 1663 they have been associated with the theatre. Performances have been on their grounds. St. Paul’s has been home to its own in house professional theatre company since 2007. They also have an orchestra in residence.

The back courtyard of St. John’s in Convent Garden, London.

Some famous people are associated with the church. There are some famous people baptized at and St. Paul’s including Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan. Married at the church were Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale.

Memorials

There are memorials inside the church dedicated to famous actors including Charlie Chaplin. The memorials line the walls inside of the church. A few are pictured below.

Alec Clunes played numerous Shakespearian roles. He appeared in film playing Hastings to Olivier’s Richard III and in One of Our Planes is Missing, a WWII flick. He was the father of current actor, Martin Clunes.
Richard Wattis appeared in numerous films including Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang. See his IMB page for a complete list. Robert Atkins is known for Black Magic, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Peg of Old Drury.
Vivien Leigh won two Academy Awards for Best Actress as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind and Blanche Dubois in Street Car Named Desire. She was primarily a stage performer playing roles such as Cleopatra, Juliet, and Lady MacBeth.
He appeared in the James Bond film to Russia With Love. He also appeared in The Sting and Jaws. He was a writer whose most notable work was the novel The Man in the Glass Booth.

If you are making a trip to Convent Garden, stop in to St. Paul’s. They have a great garden in the back and a unique history for a church. When I visited in July they also had a resident church cat.

Church Cats

If you have a cat, you know you don’t own the feline, they own you. Your house is not yours, it belongs to your cat. You are just the caretaker. In England some churches are a cat’s domain.

Unlike in the United States or some other places, many British churches are open or unlocked during the day. This is great for tourists who would like to enter and view the architecture or interior. It is also great for people who want to have a quiet moment to reflect. Propped open doors or constant visitors have enabled some local cats or strays to claim the building as their own. They may like to get out of the rain, enjoy the soft seat cushions on the pews, or even sun themselves where light filters in through the stained glass windows onto the floor.

Locals are so used to seeing particular cats lounging about that they know them by name. They may even be afforded the status of official church cat.

We were told by locals in Corsham that this was Cyril. He was owned by a local florist, but he liked to hang out at the church by day. We met him inside the church. He walked us out and walked right back to the florist shop around closing time.

Some church cats belong to a local and just like to hang out at the church. Others are strays that have shown up at a church and the staff end up adopting them and allow them to stay. The cats presence helps curb the mouse population.

Another cat I encountered inside a church in the Cotswolds. This one followed us outside the church as well. He tailed us around the churchyard.

Southwark Cathedral in London even elevated the status of their church cat by honoring her in stone with a grotesque. The named her Doorkins because she would be waiting by the door to be let into the church every morning before they adopted her.

The grotesque made in honor of Southwark Cathedral’s church cat-Doorkins.
Doorkins is older now. She is less social and sleeps a lot. Here she was in the Harvard chapel in the church. She was on a comfortable chair.
Doorkins enjoying a nap.

In her heyday Doorkins was more sociable. She met the queen when she visited Southwark Cathedral. She would join in church services and choir practices angling for a pet or a scratch behind the ear. Even though she is on in years and is less active, she still enjoyed a little attention.

They sell this book at the Southwark Cathedral store relating Doorkin’s story.
This is Jones of St. Paul’s in Covent Garden in London. Jones is getting on in years as well. He is named after Inigo Jones who designed the church. His sibling, who passed on was Inigo and he was named Jones.

I have been lucky enough to meet some of these cats. The ones I met were people friendly and enjoyed attention. In a country that obviously favors dogs, church cats in England can be considered an icon.