Oysters & High Explosives

When a thousand pound bomb hit St James’s Church Piccadilly on the night of 14th October 1940, almost 72 years ago, followed by incendiaries which burnt out the interior of the church, a banker was dining a few hundred yards away at Wiltons Oyster Bar in King Street. Wiltons’ website reports:

The license was taken over in 1930 by Mrs Bessie Leal until 1942 (sic), mid-war, when Olaf Hambro, who happened to be eating oysters alone at the bar as a bomb landed on St James’s Church, Piccadilly, asked for the restaurant to be added to his bill as Mrs Leal folded her tea towel and apron and declared Wiltons closed.

Wiltons — still owned by the Hambro banking family — and St James’s Church survived: the Church with no permanent roof until the 1950s and without a spire until the 1960s. The current spire is made of steel, plastic and fibreglass, the restoration money having run out.

Pathé newsreel reports captured the aftermath of the bombing, the church smouldering and being played with water (click the two following images for video launch pages)…

…and the dedication of the Garden of Remembrance in 1946:

St James’s and its market today:

Piccadilly Market

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