Weekly Email – Advent 2 | All Saints Margaret Street All Saints Margaret Street | Weekly Email – Advent 2

Weekly Email – Advent 2

Friday 8 December 2023 at 13:45


Dear friends,

I am pleased to reveal today the fruits of a very significant restoration project which will result in the return to use of a beautiful green High Mass set of vestments belonging to All Saints’. It is a set of vestments originally made in 1912 and which have not been seen at All Saints’ in over 30 years, but which will now be reinstated to regular use in the liturgy.

I am very grateful indeed to the benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, whose generosity has made this possible, and who has offered these restored vestments as a memorial to Chris Ellis.

I am also grateful to Genevieve Gomi, whose outstanding skill is revealed in the incredibly high quality work she has produced in restoring the vestments.

[The newly restored set of High Mass vestments, dating originally from 1912.]

The vestments concerned are the parish’s earliest extant set of green High Mass vestments. They were originally made for All Saints’ in 1912 out of a beautiful silk designed by Sir Ninian Comper called, “Cathedral” (this is the same silk which forms the East Wall hangings in Ordinary Time to this day). However, they have lain unused for many years now, due to the wear and tear of the years that had brought about their perilously frail condition.

Eucharistic vestments were first acquired for the parish in 1867, and were originally designed by the architect (and parishioner of All Saints’) George Street. Very little is known about what these earliest vestments will have looked like other than that they are likely to have been gothic in shape. The 1908 inventory lists the parish as owning as one green High Mass set and two green Low Mass sets of vestments.

In Fr Mackay’s time, however, an extensive renewal of the sanctuary and sacristy took place and these older sets, probably by then showing their age, were replaced with mainly Latin vestments of a more contemporary, baroque cut.

[The original 1912 High Mass set of vestments before restoration, showing the patched and ripped silk on the shoulders of the chasuble.]

After many years’ wear through the 20th century, and the frequency with which the liturgical colour green is used, this 1912 set of High Mass vestments began to wear out. They clearly underwent several rounds of repair and patching to prolong their life after the Second World War – the humeral veil was evidently cannibalised once it went out of use at the High Mass in the 1960s to make matching silk patches for the repair of holes.  By the 1990s, however, the whole set was considered beyond further repair, far too frail for further use, and was “retired” and put in storage.

I found the High Mass set in a dusty pile in the strong room when I arrived as vicar and wondered whether it could, in fact, be restored and brought back to use. Although the silk had long since perished in many places, the gold braid from which the vestments were made was remarkably bright and had undergone no tarnishing at all. One thought in my mind was that the braid could be lifted from the old vestments and re-laid back onto new silk.

[Holes in the perished portions of the dalmatics in the original vestments before restoration, with evidence of the extensive patching which the set had received over the years.]

I discussed this with parishioner and vestment maker Genevieve Gomi. Once she saw the vestments, she immediately felt the restoration project was possible. One great advantage was that the High Mass set also included a matching Low Mass chasuble (which was also in a perished and lamentable state). This meant that the portions of gold braid that had worn out on the High Mass vestments could be replaced with sections of similar braid from the Low Mass chasuble. We estimated that out of the dusty pile of mouldering vestments, there was just enough original material in good condition to produce one restored green High Mass set, set on new silk.

Genevieve revealed that she had recently had re-woven a long lost Comper silk pattern often referred to as “Jay” (so named because it has small jay birds in the design) for her vestment making business. She is the only person in England to have bolts of this beautiful new silk. One idea was that this new “Comper Jay” silk could be used, as its shade of green was very close indeed to the shade of the original silk from which the vestments were made.

It is clear when one looks at the vestments’ original fabric that the Comper “Cathedral” silk produced nowadays by Watts is a darker, bluer green than it used to be. By using Comper “Jay” we would not be replicating the original silk, but would get the shade much closer than if we bought new silk from Watts. At the same time, however, we would know we were using an original and authentic Comper silk pattern, even if not the original design.

[Newly restored: three maniples along with stoles for celebrant and deacon, in an interesting Spanish-French hybrid shape; chalice burse and veil in quite a large English size.]

I was very keen indeed that Genevieve copied exactly the pattern of the original vestments. They are a remarkably important historical artefact as they reveal the way in which early Anglo-Catholic vestment making experimented with different patterns and styles of vestment. This resulted in a curious stylistic mixture: a very Italian, Latin chasuble; English cut dalmatic and tunicle with very English tassels; and Spanish-looking stoles and maniples.

This set of High Mass vestments could have been produced nowhere other than the Church of England, as continental vestment makers would have used much more set patterns based on established national and regional shapes.

Another intriguing give away is the size of the burse, being much bigger than a continental one. It is, of course, needed to hold a much bigger corporal for Anglican worship as several chalices will have been needed for those occasions when the people received communion (unlike in the pre-conciliar Tridentine Rite).

[Fr Peter with Genevieve Gomi, of Maris Stella Vestments, who has brought such skilled expertise along with much prayer and love to this project.]

There is also a very curious but quite beautiful use of doubled-up braid. In order to produce the orphreys where wider braid is usually used, twice as much braid is laid down in double width. This may have been to do with what materials were available in England in 1912. On the continent, this doubling up technique would not have been necessary as it was commonplace to use two different widths of braid. I suspect the braid used to make this set may, in fact, be military in origin, and that the kind of braid used in continental vestment making may have been difficult or expensive to find, which could explain this intriguing technique.

I think Genevieve has done a wonderful job of restoration. She has copied both the exact shape and pattern of the original vestments, along with their lining. The quality of her work is exceptional. This set of High Mass vestments will now give us many more years of wear in the service of the liturgy and represents the restoration to use of a venerable example of our parish’s liturgical patrimony.

I am very grateful indeed to the individual whose generosity made this project possible in memory of Chris Ellis, and want to thank him on behalf of our whole parish for his munificence.

The vestments will be placed on display on Sunday in the nave of the church so parishioners can admire Genevieve’s work. They will be blessed on the feast of the Epiphany which is kept this year on Sunday 7th January 2024, and which is the day before Chris Ellis’ anniversary of death. The vestments will then be used for the first time a week later on Sunday 14th January 2024, which is the first Sunday when green is worn next year. I can think of no better memorial to Chris, who clearly loved this church and its liturgy, and gave so much time and care to its upkeep.

Fr Peter



Frances O’Neil

It is a great sadness to have to share the news that Frances O’Neil died peacefully on Monday night. She had been suffering from cancer for some months.

Frances was a faithful parishioner of All Saints’ for very many years, including service to our parish as churchwarden, and a trusted friend to so many. A very large number of people have already been in touch to express how much they owe Frances for her friendship, kindness and loyalty. We are grateful to her, as a parish, for her unfailing service to All Saints’, for her resolute kindness, and for the quiet steadfastness of her faith. We will greatly miss her.

I want to record personally my thanks and gratitude to Frances for the warm, selfless, and kind way she welcomed me as vicar and supported my ministry here. It was a privilege for Fr Alan and I to be able to minister to her during her last days. I wish to pay tribute to the faith-filled and trusting way in which she prepared for her death. She was an example to us all in the way in which she made herself ready to meet her Lord and Saviour.

I also want to thank on behalf of our parish all those who rallied around Frances in her final weeks. It was very impressive and touching to see so many visit her, support her, and reach out to her. Particular thanks in this respect should go to Janet Drake for the exemplary and loving role she has played in supporting her dear friend.

Frances’ funeral, which will be a High Mass of Requiem, will take place at All Saints’ on Thursday 4th January at 10.30 am. There will then be a committal at Islington Crematorium in East Finchley at 11.00 am the next day, Friday 5th January.  Please keep Frances’ family and friends in your prayers.

Rest eternal grant to her, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her.

Fr Peter


Immaculate Conception – TONIGHT


Various Masses cancelled this week

Please note with care a number of changes to our liturgical schedule this week. These are all laid out below in the “Services this Week” section of this email.

Rosary and the 12 noon Mass are cancelled tomorrow (Saturday 9th December) to allow parishioners of All Saints’ to attend the High Mass of Requiem at St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge, which will be celebrated at 12 noon on that day for the repose of the soul of Ray Oram.

The 6.30 pm Mass is cancelled on Tuesday 12th, Wednesday 13th, and Thursday 14th December to make way for carol services organised by Magdalen College, Oxford, Keble College, Oxford, and Freud’s Communications. Please note that the 12 noon Mass on those days will take place as usual.


What a joy it was receive the youth group of St Martin’s, Ruislip, last Saturday. They came to receive a blessing at the shrine of Our Lady of Margaret Street before heading into the West End to see the Christmas lights and finish the night with a pizza supper.


Confessions this Wednesday

Fr Graeme Rowlands will be available to hear confessions at All Saints’ this Wednesday 13th December at 11.00 am.

This marks the beginning of a new project which will involve Fr Graeme being available at All Saints’ to hear confessions on a regular basis. He will then be available at the following times over the next month in the run up to Christmas:  5.30 pm, Monday 18th December; and 5.30 pm, Wednesday 20th December.


It was wonderful to welcome so many people to our Advent Carol Service on Sunday evening. The music was outstanding and included: Matin Responsory – Palestrina; A tender shoot – Goldschmidt; Laetentur caeli – Byrd; O thou, the central Orb – Gibbons; There is a flower – Vann; Im Advent – Mendelssohn. You can watch this beautiful liturgy on our YouTube channel here.


Christmas Services at All Saints’

Parish Christmas Carol Service
Sunday 17th December 2023
Nine Lessons and Carols | 6.00 pm

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Sunday 24th December 2023
High Mass | 11.00 am

Christmas Eve
Sunday 24th December 2023
First High Mass of Christmas | 6.00 pm
Midnight High Mass | 11.00 pm

Christmas Day
Monday 25th December 2023
Said Mass of the Dawn | 9.00 am
High Mass of Christmas Day | 11.00 am

Please note that from Tuesday 26th December until Saturday 30th December, there will only be one Mass each day at 12 noon. 

Feast of the Holy Family
Sunday 31st December 2023
High Mass | 11.00 am
Please note that there will be no 5.15 pm Said Mass or Evensong on Sunday 31st December.

Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
Sunday 7th January 2023
High Mass | 11.00 am
Said Mass | 5.15 pm
Epiphany Carol Service | 6.00 pm


We are very grateful indeed to Fr Nathan Mulcock for leading a wonderful Zoom Theology Seminar on Maximus the Confessor’s Theology of Creation on Tuesday night. We were joined by participants from many different places. Excellent teaching; fascinating questions; and good discussion!


Mary Rowe

The funeral rites of Mary Rowe will take place at  at 2.00pm on Thursday 21 December 2023 at St John’s Wood Church, Prince Albert Road, London NW8 7NE.


Parish Visit to the British Library:
“Fantasy – Realms of Imagination”

On Tuesday 23rd January 2024 there will be a parish trip to The British Library to see an impressive new exhibition entitled, “Fantasy – Realms of Imagination.” One of the curators of this exhibition is our own parishioner Rachel Foss.

I am so pleased and grateful to Rachel that she has offered to give us a personal introduction and tour of the exhibit. The show itself explores the role that fantasy and fable play in our corporate fictive imagination. It delves into the realm of fairy tales and folk story, epics and quest narratives, portals to other worlds, and use of the weird, startling and uncanny in literature.

We will meet at the British Library at 6.00 pm on Tuesday 23rd January 2024. Our visit to the exhibition will be followed by supper at the Pizza Express opposite the British Library on the Euston Road at 8.00 pm. The cost of the exhibition is £15, and supper is £30 (including drinks). Please email the parish office to book a place.


What a joy it was to welcome Rugby School for their London Carol Service on Tuesday. The school choir was on terrific form! Rugby’s chapel is designed by Butterfield so the pupils and old members say each year how much they feel at home worshipping at All Saints’!


Shrove Tuesday Crêpes Suzette dinner

To celebrate Shrove Tuesday, we will be hosting a special Crêpes Suzette dinner at Le Beaujolais restaurant on Litchfield Street in Soho. The cost will be £50 for three courses. Instead of the usual cheese trolley, you are welcome to choose, as a special treat for Pancake Day, the restaurant’s famous Crêpes Suzette as a way of finishing Ordinary Time and preparing for Lent. To book a place, please email the parish office.


What fun was had last night at Fr Alan’s home as he hosted our young adults group for a St Ambrose’s Day party. Many thanks to Fr Alan for such a lovely evening!


Lent Theatre Trip – Dead Poets Live: Gerard Manley Hopkins

There will be a parish trip to the theatre at Wilton’s Music Hall on Wednesday 6th March for Lent to see a fascinating show presenting the poetry and life story of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Tickets are £26 each and the play begins at 7.30 pm.

The blurb for this performance says the following: “Dead Poets Live return to Wilton’s for three nights to tell the story of Hopkins’s relationship with poetry, and poetry’s relationship with Hopkins: how his extraordinary spiritual life led him to write – and then not to write – as he did, how his poems were destroyed, how they survived, how they were misunderstood, and how, ultimately, their influence triumphed. It is the story of a radical and passionate style and the radical, passionate spirit that it continues to communicate.”

To book a place, please email the parish office.


The music at our High Mass last Sunday for Advent 1 included: Johannes Eccard (1553-1611), Missa ‘Mon coeur se recommande a vous’; and William Byrd (1540-1623), Vigilate. Fr Alan was the preacher, calling us to ponder the notion of “authenticity” as we enter the season of Advent. A Christian understanding of “authenticity” involves us conceiving of our relationship with God in the context of the community of the church: “We must take seriously Advent’s call to a corporate holiness.” You can watch the liturgy again here, and Fr Alan’s sermon here.


Fundraising appeal for children’s choirs in Tower Hamlets

Jonathan Pease has been in touch about a very worthy Christmas fundraising appeal.

Formerly Parish Administrator at All Saints, Jonathan began working with the Tower Hamlets Deanery on music and mission in September. Amongst other things, Jonathan has founded two new children’s liturgical choirs, in Poplar and Bethnal Green. These aim to offer a chorister experience to children and families who would otherwise not have access to such things, and to enable traditional choral worship in East End churches.

Jonathan is embarking on a major fundraising drive for these two choirs, and a secular children’s choir which he runs on the same patch. Any donations will make a huge difference to this important and exciting work.

If you feel moved to give, you can do so here.


Fr Alan’s St Ambrose’s Day party for our young adults group. Please be in touch with Fr Alan if you would like to be kept abreast of the group’s future events.


Attendance last Sunday



The flowers are given by Caroline Sibbald in memory of her brother, Fr David Paton, whose anniversary falls on Thursday 14 December.


Prayer List

The Friends of All Saints’ Margaret Street:

December 10th – Dr Philip Wood, Martin Woods, The Rev’d John Wylam, William Yale,  Catherine Young, Michael Young, The Sisters of All Saints’
11th – Mark Allan, Martin Amherst-Lock, Mary Attenborough, Robert Austen, Richard Ayling, James Babington Smith, Ruth Baker
12th – Stephen Baldwin, Stephen Barber, Dr William Benefield, Fr Adrian Berry, Charlotte Black, Graeme Bloom, Colin Bodkin
13th – William Bonnell, John Bristow, Eric Broglé, Paul Brough, David Blunden, Fr Michael Bowie, Dr Graham Burns
14th – Derek Bussey, Maureen Cambrey, Adrian Carlton-Oatley, Timothy Cassady, Kate Charles, Stuart Chillingworth, Robert Chote, Sandy Christian
15th – Roger Clark, Catharine Clarke, David and Mavis Cleggett, Graham Colville, Alan Cook, Dr Patrick Cook, Eliza Coomber
16th – Karolyn Cooper, William Cooper Bailey, Peter Coulson, Steven Cox, Dr Yvonne Craig, Juliet Cridland

The sick:

Martin Berka, Jason Dunlop, Frances Gayler, Gary and Gill Hargreaves, Fr. Harry Hodgetts, Michael Lamprell, Alma Lockley, Elizabeth Lyon, James Roger, Bruce Ross-Smith

The faithful departed:

Frances O’Neil, Mary Rowe, Pat Castle Stewart

Those whose anniversaries of death fall at this time:

December 10th – Marian Borton, Hamish Gray, Natalie Dyrnes, Daniel Thomas
11th – Amelia Jones, Alice Trevor, Annie Jevons, Roscow Shedden Bp, Margaret Butterworth, Guy Pritchard, Ros Tagoe
12th – James Burling, Chris Fairbairn, Richard Eyre Pr, Ian Stevens
13th – Mary Packer, David Vickery Pr, John Turner, Lindsey Boynton
14th – William Lloyd Pr, Robert Kirk, David Paton Pr
15th – James Forsyth, Doris King, Leonard Beeken


Service times this week

Saturday 9th December – Advent Feria
(N.B. Noon Mass is cancelled for Ray Oram’s Mass of Requiem at St Magnus the Martyr.)
6.30pm Vigil Mass of Sunday

Sunday 10th December – Second Sunday of Advent
11.00 am High Mass
5.15 pm Mass
6.00 pm Evensong and Benediction

Monday 11th December – Advent Feria
12.00 pm Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Tuesday 12th December – Advent Feria
12.00 pm Mass
6.00 pm Magdalen College, Oxford Carol Service
(N.B. Evening Mass cancelled tonight.)

Wednesday 13th December – St Lucy
12.00 pm Mass
6.30 pm Keble College, Oxford Carol Service
(N.B. Evening Mass cancelled tonight.)

Thursday 14th December – St John of the Cross
12.00 pm Mass
6.00 pm Freud Communications Carol Service
(N.B. Evening Mass cancelled tonight.)

Friday 15th December – Advent Feria
12.00 pm Mass
6.30 pm Mass

Saturday 16th December – Advent Feria
12 noon Mass
6.30 pm Vigil Mass of Sunday

Sunday 17th December – Third Sunday of Advent
11.00 am High Mass
5.15 pm Mass
6.00 pm Service of Nine Lessons and Carols