This article was found in the April 1952 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by B. C. Wood and originally titled London Pride.
Not many months ago I was given the privilege of introducing some transatlantic visitors to London, the city that Emerson once called the Capital of the Human Race. I set about my task with joy and with pride because London is not only an incomparable capital but it has the capacity of arousing and sustaining complete devotion in the hearts of its sons.
Soon, however, my joy gave place to sense of inadequacy for London does not give itself to guide-book treatment. While any visitor should be impressed by the dignity of the Mall and the excitement of Piccadilly Circus or Trafalgar Square the true throb of London's pulse can only be felt in its accidental and sudden beauty, in the discovering of its labyrinth of streets, in the fascination of its river and in the beauty of its parks.
When I stood for the first time on Westminster Bridge and gazed expectantly around me I felt ashamed of my dullness, for I could see nothing majestic in the panorama before me. Yet, on another occasion, probably it was autumn, Wordsworth's seemed an inspired description of a noble scene. In the same way Somerset House, the house of the Protector, is sometimes the shabbiest building and sometimes one of the handsomest to be seen.
Many visitors, including, I think, mine, who are accustomed to the stone triumphs of millionaire financiers are surprised by London's modesty. When the big and bold in architecture is sought we must turn to Bush or Shell-Mex House or to the monstrosity which is the London University building, and it is only by chance and Goering's bombers that St. Paul's Cathedral has yet been set free to shout its sturdy Protestantism at a larger audience. Besides Versailles St. James' Palace is the last word in self-effacement while in comparison with the White House No. 10 Downing Street must be almost sinister in its anonymity.
But the anonymity is a characteristic of both the Londoner and his city. I have met Londoners who are inordinately proud because they have no idea who their neighbours are and no wish to find out. Here is a have for those - from the deserter to the revolutionary - who wish to live in oblivion. "The only spot on earth left to be discovered," said one of Pinero's characters, "is the end of Cromwell Road."
Again, there are many cities within London; from Spitalfields to Golders Green there is toleration to all races, while Hampstead and West Ham might be in different continents. Some say too that the climate in Battersea is far milder than that in Chelsea, but about this I cannot tell.
London's parks are all of them significant and most of them beautiful, but Hyde Park is perhaps nearest of all to the Londoner's heart. In its own diversity it is a reflection of the whole city; and it has been observed, I think with some perception, that Orators' Corner and the Pets' Cemetery represent the extremities of the British mind. And so it is with the patrician acres of Kensington Gardens and the more plebeian Lido on the Serpentine - the Lido which was inspired by one of the greatest Londoners of all.
I think so too, that George Lansbury would dearly loved to have seen the exciting new vista of London opened up with the buildings on South Bank. For here we have not only a fresh view of London's present glories but a promise that we may be privileged to witness the writing of another historic chapter in the story of our city.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon