One of Hogarth’s finest paintings – and a connection to St. Giles-in-the-Fields, despite this depicting Charing Cross.
The night shown is Oak Apple Day, 29th May c.1736 and this public holiday commemorated the Restoration of the monarchy. The boughs and sprigs of oak worn in hats recall the hiding of Charles ll in an oak tree after losing the Battle of Worcester, 1651. During the battle, a certain Richard Pendrell Esq. hid the future king – and he is buried in St. Giles-in-the-Fields church.
For many years however, Richard Pendrell’s grave lay in the churchyard here and over a long period in the 19th century a curious custom was observed: a garland of flowers appeared on his tomb each year on 29th May, placed by an unseen hand. One year, a St. Giles churchman determined to discover who placed the flowers there and so slept upon the tomb to find out who it was.
He awoke early upon the morning of the 29th May to find the garland placed beside him. It was never determined who carried out this local custom over so many years and to this day it remains a mystery.
For more history upon St. Giles-in-the-Fields church, see St. Giles Online.org/History.