Ship of Fools
  Bulletin Boards
  Mystery Worshipper
  Caption Competition
  Gadgets for God
  The Fruitcake Zone
  Signs & Blunders
  Born Twice
  About Ship of Fools
  Support us!
  Contact us!
194: Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace, England
Other reports | Comment on this report
Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace, England
Mystery Worshipper: Newman's Own.
The church: Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Extraordinary – fit for the likes of Cardinal Wolsey, though the chapel is so restrained that it is very low church for my taste. I saw no ghosts, though I'm not certain I did not feel the presence of at least a few.
The neighbourhood: The glorious gardens (which were in preparation for the flower show three days later) and the maze were filled with people having picnic lunches, relaxing, and eating ice cream. There was no shortage of day trip and tourist visitors in the magnificent palace.
The cast: The names were not provided.
What was the name of the service?
Choral Evensong.

How full was the building?
Absolutely packed, though unfortunately with many in the stalls who were improperly dressed (this is not Brighton Pier!) and who undoubtedly had never been to Evensong before... nor, perhaps, even to church. There was a wonderfully proper crowd in the pews, who apparently are regulars.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was rather sternly asked, "Are you attending the service?"

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, if a bit crowded.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
One step short of silent and highly dignified, though the total puzzlement, whispers and ill-bred behaviour of some of the tourists did spoil the moment.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
Sorry – I cannot remember the first prayer, and it would have been rather crass to scribble.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Common Prayer.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ, and mainly superb Anglican chant.

Did anything distract you?
Those who looked as if they had stumbled into a set from Star Trek (juding from their puzzlement), and who were fumbling with the books, tempted me to remind them that this is a genuine religious service, not a page from a book of fairy tales.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Naturally, extremely formal, expressionless, "read with no inflection" dignity.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was none.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The marvellous music.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Watching the worst of the crass tourists.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. Just about everyone in Hampton Court looks lost.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The tea in Queen Elizabeth I's refectory is pricey but adequate.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes – though my mind tends to become fanciful in palaces such as this, and I had this slightly uneasy feeling remembering some of the unpleasant aspects of the Tudor era.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How very glad I was that I forced myself to get up from under a tree in the palace gardens and get to evensong!
The Mystery Worshipper is sponsored by, the internet service provider from Christian Aid. By offering email services, special offers with companies such as and, surefish raises more than £300,000 a year for Christian Aid's work around the world.

Click here to find out how to become a Mystery Worshipper. And click here if you would like to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Top | Other Reports | Become a Mystery Worshipper!

© Ship of Fools 2000
Surefish logo