Town mouse on Capt George Vancouver

Driving to Petersham, in the London Borough of Richmond, in a gale was a wonderful experience. Stripped from the trees, the last of the golden leaves flew about as if in a tumble-dryer. The route seemed to lie entirely through commons although, admittedly, I was lost.

I was on my way to meet Capt George Vancouver, whose mortal remains rest in St Peter’s Church. Two cities were named after him, one in British Columbia, Canada; the other in Washington State, USA. With Capt Cook when he was killed, Vancouver later charted the western coast of the America.

By the time he retired to Petersham on half-pay, his health was broken, and he died aged 40. A calendar has just been produced to celebrate the places associated with him. Excellently photographed, it’s available from St Peter’s or, price £9.99.

This is not the only excitement at the church. It has a new organ, brought over from the Manufacture d’Orgues St Martin in Switzerland and yet to be played. The case has been designed so as not to disrupt the atmosphere of the church, whose oddly large transepts (which make the medieval chancel look rather a stump) are filled with Georgian box pews, plus a few ‘agricultural pews’ (benches) for labourers. Vancouver would feel quite at home if he came back, although, in his day, music was supplied by a band.

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