History and Architecture


The Cathedral's connections with the USA

John Harvard

The baptismal records for St Saviour's Church record that the son of parishioners Robert and Katherine Harvard was baptised here on 29 November 1607. He was given the name John.  Robert was a prominent businessman who had a butcher's business in Pepper Alley and was also warden of St Saviour's.

John lost many family members, including his father, in the Southwark Plague. His mother Katherine went on to remarry, possibly twice more. However, after the death of both his mother and elder brother, John and his wife Ann left for Massachusetts in 1637. He died of consumption in 1638 and left half his estate and his library of books to the proposed new college, now known as Harvard University.

The Harvard Chapel in the Cathedral commemorates this 'godly gentleman and lover of learning'.

Oscar Hammerstein II:

Inside the Chapel there is a memorial plaque to American librettist, theatrical producer, and theatre director, Oscar Hammerstein II. Oscar fell in love with the English Cathedral Choral tradition and would regularly visit the Cathedral and take the head boy of the Boy's Choir to lunch with him. His will provided £2000 to support two choir boys at the Cathedral and are, to this day, known as the Hammerstein Chanters. The plaque was unveiled by his second wife, Dorothy on 24 May 1961.

John La Farge

The window in the Harvard Chapel is by the New York stained glass artist, John La Farge. It was commissioned and paid for by Joseph Hodges Choate (1832-1917), himself a Harvard graduate. Choate had an illustrious career in law, and headed many organisations, including the Union League Club and the Century Association. A life-long Republican he was appointed Ambassador to the Court of St James's in London in 1899, where he worked closely with John Hay, Secretary of State, on the territorial treaties between the US and Britain concerning Canada.

The main subject is the Baptism of Christ, alluding to the baptism of John Harvard in the church in 1607. This depiction is after Nicolas Poussin.

On the upper left are the arms of Harvard University and on the right those of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where Harvard studied. In the centre are the Royal Arms, as they appeared between 1415 and 1603; however, the supporters and crest are of a later period, probably dating from the restoration carried out in 1948.

Charles Morton

In 1686 Charles Morton, son of Nicholas Morton, rector of St Saviour's (now Southwark Cathedral) emigrated to Massachusetts, where he became Fellow and Vice-President of Harvard.

Mahomet Weyonomon

On 22 November 2006 HM The Queen accompanied by HRH Prince Philip visited the Cathedral to unveil a granite boulder from Connecticut in the churchyard to commemorate the Sachem Mahomet Weyonomon.

The story goes back to an entry in the Daily Journal for August 11th, 1736:

On Sunday last about one o'clock in the
Morning died of the Small Pox, in the 36th
Yeare of his Age, Mahomet Weyonomon,
Sachem of the Tribe of the Mohegans in the
Province of Connecticut in New England. He
was Great Grandson to the famous Sachem
Uncafs or Onkafs, who took part with the
English upon their firft fettling of that Country. He
was very decently interred laft Night (from his
Lodgings at Mr Midhurst's in Aldermanbury)
in St Mary Over's Burial-place.

The background to the story is the familiar colonial tale of settlers appropriating the land belonging to the original native population. In this case it was the tribal lands belonging to the Mohegans in Connecticut. When the settlers first took the land, Mahomet's grandfather Oweneco came to England to petition Queen Anne. The Queen ordered a commission who found in favour of the Indians that they were unjustly deprived of their lands and the governor and company of the Colony of Connecticut was ordered to return the lands. Not only was this ignored but further encroachments took place. to the point where the Mohegans were unable to subsist on the remaining territory.

So in 1735 Mahomet Weyomon accompanied by John Mason, his son Samuel and Zachary Johnson came to London to petition King George II for restoration of their lands.  They lodged in the City in the Ward of St Mary Aldermanbury.  But before they could present the petition the whole party died of smallpox. The city authorities were happy to bury Mahomet's European companions in the City but Mahomet had to be buried in the churchyard of St Mary Overy. It was quite a common custom at that time for burials to take place at night and we may imagine what a dramatic spectacle it was when the body was brought by torchlight over London Bridge.

At the unveiling ceremony in November, present with the Queen was the tribal chairman Bruce Two Dogs Bozsum and other members of the tribe. An audience with the monarch that failed in 1735 was finally achieved. The monument was carved by Peter Randall Page.

Sam Wanamaker

On the right of the memorial to William Shakespeare, is a memorial tablet to the American actor, Sam Wanamaker, who was the driving force behind the building of the present Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on Bankside. His ambition was achieved despite opposition at the time from local councillors, who did not want it to become a tourist attraction. How times have changed! Unfortunately, he did not live to see his dream become a reality, dying before it opened its doors to the public.

Southwark pottery exported to the British Colonies

Within the Archaeological chamber which can be viewed in Lancelot's Link (the internal glazed street) on the north /river side of the complex, are the remains of a 17th century pottery kiln. It was in 1614 that an application was made to make pottery 'after the manner of Fiansa' (Florence). Part of the old 'fratree' of the monastery was used as a pot house and colour house. The kilns were uncomfortably close to the church walls and a small fire in the 18th century ensured that the pottery was finally closed. Southwark Delftware (i.e. tin-glazed) was in production before it was made in Delft. Its distinctive yellow and blue colouring was popular in the American colonies and one of the largest collections of it is at Williamsburg, Virginia.