William Shakespeare and John Harvard were
contemporaries, though perhaps it is more
accurate to say they overlapped.
The Bard was forty-three at Harvard's birth.
He knew the parents of the child quite well:
the mother was a friend from Stratford, his
hometown; the father was his butcher in
the part of London, Southwark, where he worked .
Did he introduce them? Who can say?
The baby was baptised at the cathedral,
Southwark, which was just a church back then.
You see it here. The tower and the lighter
stone are as they were in Shakespeare's time.
The darker stone's Victorian, a rebuild
in the nineteenth century, though still
in Gothic style with. buttresses and pointed
windows. Named Saint Saviours, it was
the parish church of Southwark and the largest
parish church in England. It took on
the status of cathedral in nineteen
oh five, when that new nave was finished and
a number of repairs to other parts were done.
Like this, the Harvard Chapel, which was too
dilapidated to be used, but money
from the university which shares
its name restored and renovated it.
It was the chapel of St John before.
The change to chapel of John Harvard meant
a mere extension of the name. The stonework
is twelfth century or Early English,
that's to say, not Norman any more.
The massive studded door dates from the fifteenth
century. It's not so common that
a chapel has a door, especially one
of heavy oak like this, which gives a sense
of lock-in and of secrecy.
It's difficult to enter if the mass
is under way already. Does one knock?
Before we do though, here's the record of John Harvard's baptism or christening in
the Gothic writing of sixteen oh seven.
It took place in this church with Shakespeare there
perhaps. November, as you see, and on
the twenty ninth where those fluorescent dots are:
John - Harvye - son - of - Robt - a - butcher
There are as many variants of Harvard
as there are of the coronavirus.
John's father Robert was a member of
the parish council her in Southwark
and his name is written differently
at every meeting: Harvye - Y E, Harvey -
E Y, Harverd, Harvard even Harwood
once or twice. We know it's Harvard as
the seating plan remained the same from year
to year. Consistent where they sat but in-
consistent in the spelling of their name.