On our first day in London, Monday 27 May, Greg and I had a stroll around Holland Park – the garden, not the suburb – after breakfast. For a London park it was much less formal and cultivated than I had expected. We saw a squirrel, a novelty to us, since Australia has none, and a peacock, too lazy or bored to fan his tail.
It was a Bank Holiday Monday and very very busy. Charlotte and I, braving the crowds, went into town to look at Old Palace Yard, between Westminster Abbey and the Thames, where my 5th great grandfather Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738 – 1803) once lived. In 1834 the house was destroyed in the great fire that burnt down the Palace of Westminster. Old Palace Yard numbers 6 and 7 survived, and since these were probably built along similar lines to their neighbour, I got at least an impression of how Philip Champion de Crespigny’s house would have looked. Number 4 is gone, replaced by a statue of King George V.
We’d arranged to meet one of my cousins and her family at Westminster Abbey. She and I had exchanged emails about our family history and it was great fun to meet in person. The abbey was very crowded and we waited in the queue for an hour before were admitted. We had lots to talk about.
An attendant told me that on busy days there might be a thousand people in the abbey, six thousand over the course of the day. The tombs were amazing: more of them and more elaborate than we saw anywhere else in England. My favourite was that of William Wilberforce, who sits cross-legged, book in hand, looking thoughtful.