A Leap Day Baptism of Light…

I baptise thee George Gordon Byron in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen

So said the Priest of St Marylebone Parish Church, London on this very day February 29 in the year 1788.

Today, as we celebrate another Leap Day some 228 years later, the Polite Tourist invites you to take a look at the wonderful church which honoured the birth of a future Poet and which also served as the inspiration for a painting by the artist William Hogarth.

The church stands beside the hectic Marylebone Road in central London and as it is situated a short distance from Holles Street where Byron was born, it explains why Catherine would choose this parish church for the baptism of her only child.

And on on a beautifully warm October afternoon a year or two ago, the Polite Tourist was able to enjoy the exquisite calm of St Marylebone Parish Church.

Although the original pew panel depicted in Hogarth’s 1735 painting The Wedding Scene can still be found within this glorious church – I forgot to photograph it!

However, as the sunshine bathed through the glorious windows of the empty church, I enjoyed the appropriateness of the setting for despite Byron’s ambivalent attitude towards religion, he would have surely would have approved; for as he was to muse in his journal sometime during the year of 1822:

I am always most religious upon a sunshiny day – as if there was some association between an internal approach to greater light and purity – and the kindler of this dark lanthorn of our external existence…

Although the entry for the Parish Register which I obtained from the London Metropolitan Archives reads as follows: March 1st, George Gordon, son, of John Byron Esq. & Catherine, b. 22 inst,

However, the date had been entered in error as the clerk had obviously forgotten that 1788 was a Leap Year – ‘Save February, with twenty-eight days clear, And twenty-nine each leap year.’

This church was also the setting for the union of Byron’s friend James Webster Wedderburn Webster who in December 1810 pledged his troth to the teenage and ‘Highly Pedigreed’ Lady Frances Caroline Annesley and although both would prove to be the source of much irritation and frustration for our poet in later years – that is for another story!

And to discover more about this wonderful church, simply click on the door of St Marylebone Parish Church below…

May your Leap Day be just as precipitous!

Sources used:

My Amiable Mamma A Biography of Mrs. Catherine Gordon Byron Megan Boyes (Derby: J.M.Tatler & Son Ltd)

In the Wind’s Eye Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 9 Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1979)

'For I Was Rather Famous in My Time, Until I Fairly Knocked It Up with Rhyme.' Lord Byron

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