Sunday, 28 April 2019

hall of fame

Graciously, the Gentle Author of Spitalfields Life invites us to seek refuge from the hustle of the High Street and hide a bit in an old haunt—The Champion located in the West End, just off the retail monotony of Oxford Street—and soak up the atmosphere.
Though the pub has been there on the corner of Wells and Eastcastle since the mid-nineteenth century, a contemporary of the Victorian explorers and sports pioneers depicted in stained glass, these were much later additions, commissions from the accomplished artist Ann Southeran installed in 1989 to give the place some added character, and include the subject Captain Matthew Webb (*1848 - †1883) who was the first recorded individual to cross the English Channel under his own power. In 1875, Webb swam from Dover to Calais in just under twenty-two hours, fighting the powerful rip-tide and painful jellyfish stings. Sadly, Webb’s later stunt of crossing the Whirlpool Rapids below Niagara Falls proved to be too treacherous and Webb died during his swim. Webb’s life and legacy are remembered in the poem “A Shropshire Lad” by Poet Laureate John Betjeman and the caricature of him that appeared on a brand of weatherproof matches is said to have been the model for Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau. Much more to explore at the link above plus a detailed gallery of the Champions at the link above.