St Andrew’s Street runs from the end of Regent’s Street into the city centre with Christ’s College on one end, and Emmanuel on the other. It has a mall (shopping arcade) entrance along its route, and several nice eateries.
I recently had the opportunity to use St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church as a venue to teach my students about church architecture, and the symbolism of church decoration and furnishings. I really like this meeting place as it has a fair share of quirks as well as being a great model of a evangelical Protestant church building.
The Baptist Church’s lay out is interesting as it has incorporated old passage and alley ways into the present complex. The church provides a wing in what was a Victorian Sunday School and it has a cafe and meeting area in a converted passage way.
The Baptist congregation dates to the end of the 17th Century, and the building has expanded from the conversion of secular buildings, to the present structure which has had periodic expansions, and remodeling over the centuries. The present interior space of the chapel is Edwardian, and has some really wonderful features, especially in the Alpine style of its ceiling and upper gallery.
Christian iconography is evident but not in typical ways. The only initially evident cross is on the right hand gallery as one faces the pulpit. Yet is you examine the 21st century two-tone seating, you will find that the colour pattern of the chair upholstery forms a second cross as seen from the pulpit. Examining the windows and carving of the older woodwork reveals a large number of triangles and other Trinity symbols, however.
The stained glass at the front of the chapel area is interesting as it does not depict scenes from the scriptures or of saints. It instead shows characters and scenes from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The Celestial City adorns the top of the window, and Christian, Faithful, and Valiant for Truth feature in the panels.
The older wooden pews have interesting bracket and tray fixtures which are often misunderstood. They are simply umbrella stands for the worshipers and are practical considerations not ecclesiastical ones. In a similar vein, there are a number of ornate metal boxes along the walls. These too a thought by many to be “suggestion” or prayer request boxes, but they are actually remnants of the Victorian heating system.
The Livingstone’s Cafe in the church. I had a coffee and later a meal here while visiting the venue. The cafe which is built alongside the church building is in a covered area in what seems to have once been an alley leading to the Victorian Sunday School annex. The area is modern and clean, and the history is clearly visible as you can see not only the flint cobbled walls of the church, but also the red stone entry of the 1880s Sunday School. The staff are largely volunteers but are attentive, if not a little busy with a fair volume of regulars and passing trade. Orders are taken at the table and payment made at the till (no card payments by the way). The coffee is of good quality and at a fair price. I also had a good sized jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw. This was served with a small salad (cucumber, tomato, cress and iceberg lettuce. The coleslaw was good and still had a fresh cabbage flavour. The carrot cake I had was very nicely made, but rather high priced (as opposed to a very reasonable price for the meals and coffee). There is a small play area for children, and a disabled/play area toilet convenient to the dining area, as well as other conveniences further into the complex. For those interested in such things, there are several features that show a true social concern. There are also anti-poverty goods available and a friendly attitude shown to regulars, visitors, and passing students as well.
Not far away is another lunch spot, the St Andrews Street Wagamama. The restaurant is upstairs, but there is a lift for those with mobility issues or with pushchairs. The tables are bench style with fixed stools, and the decor is rather plain, but the food is tasty and served fairly quickly. We had shiitake donburi which was in very big portions, and this was complemented by the infused oil, and choice of soy sauces on the table. Green tea is served for free with the meal, and all in all it was a tasty affordable lunch.
Other Foodie stops include the Castle Bar, which has a really good ice cream kiosk on the sidewalk during the summer months, and the Regal which is a Wetherspoon pub. I have eaten at the Regal on a couple of occasions. The first was for a breakfast (before visiting the church in a previous year), I found the offerings, and quality quite good. The restaurant/pub is large, yet a comfortable, and welcoming place to visit. The ordering system is the pay at bar, served at table type, but the staff were very efficient and helpful. I had eggs royale, which was nicely prepared and the salmon very nicely complimented by the hollandaise sauce. The coffee was a bit basic, but not bad. On my recent visit, my wife and I had lunch there, and there are some very good Friday Fish deals.
If churches and colleges aren’t your thing there is always the Grand Arcade. I am not one for malls and shopping precincts, but the Grand Arcade is a well maintained, attractive centre. I was there to use the Apple Store, but found the other shops interesting as well, and the Costa Coffee hidden away under the escalators provided a nice place to wait while significant others are doing their thing.