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stdunstanDo you ever wonder about the origin of displaying ‘lucky’ horseshoes near a door?

I always thought it was pagan superstition.

However, the origin lies in a legend about St Dunstan — whose feast day is on May 19 — and the devil.

St Dunstan’s two encounters with the devil are said to have taken place in Mayfield, East Sussex. VillageNet has a detailed description of Mayfield’s history, including the legends about Dunstan (emphases mine):

The saint, formerly a blacksmith, was working at his forge when the Devil paid him a visit, disguised as a beautiful woman, with a view to leading him astray. However St Dunstan spotted the cloven hooves beneath the dress, and grabbed the devil’s nose with his red hot pincers! thus foiling Satan’s evil intentions. According to another legend, Satan returned again as a weary traveller in need of a horseshoe, Dunstan saw through the disguise once again and beat the Devil until he pleaded for mercy, and swore never to enter any house with a horseshoe above the door.

St Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Atlanta has this variation on the legends:

He was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil.

English literature contains many references to him, for example in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and in this folk rhyme:



St Dunstan, as the story goes,
Once pull’d the devil by the nose
With red-hot tongs, which made him roar,
That he was heard three miles or more.

Another story relates how Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil’s horse. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door. This is claimed as the origin of the lucky horseshoe.

In 1871, Edward G Flight wrote a humorous poem about the legends with accompanying text, which is equally amusing. The renowned George Cruikshank provided the illustrations (see one on the right, courtesy of CatholicSaints.Info). The Horse Shoe: The True Legend of Saint Dunstan and the Devil, Showing How the Horse-Shoe Came to Be a Charm Against Witchcraft is worth a look. Here is an excerpt of the text (emphases in the original):

To all good folk in Christendom to whom this instrument shall come the Devil sendeth greeting: Know ye that for himself and heirs said Devil covenants and declares, that never at morn or evening prayers at chapel church or meeting, never where concords of sweet sound sacred or social flow around or harmony is woo’d, nor where the Horse-Shoe meets his sight on land or sea by day or night on lowly sill or lofty pinnacle on bowsprit helm mast boom or binnacle, said Devil will intrude.

Flight’s work includes a letter from ‘a friend’ describing the virtues of the noble horse and how the horseshoe repels the devil (emphases mine):

… In proportion as they developed unblemished honour, with undaunted bravery, graceful bearing, and magnanimous generosity, were they deemed worthy to rank among Christendom’s bright chivalry.

The horse-shoe was, no doubt, regarded as typical of the noble qualities of its wearer. These being so hateful to the ugly, sly, intriguing, slandering, malevolent, ill-conditioned, pettifogging, pitiful arch-enemy, it might well be supposed that the mere apparition of that type would scare him away. To this supposition is ascribable the adoption of the horse-shoe, as an infallible charm against the visits of old Iniquity.”

The Drinks Business has a good page on St Dunstan and provides us with a more recent, although doubtful, story concerning the holy man and the devil. This, they say, was popular during the past two centuries. It concerns the frost that occurs in the West Country in England around St Dunstan’s feast day, May 19:

The tale was apparently particularly popular in Devon in the 19th and 20th centuries and goes thus.

Dunstan had bought some barley and made some beer, which he then hoped to sell for a good price. Seeing this the Devil appeared before him and offered to blight the local apple trees with frost (the tale is presumably set in Somerset, perhaps when Dunstan is Abbot of Glastonbury). This would ensure there was no cider and so drive demand for beer. Dunstan accepted the offer but stipulated that the frost should strike from the 17-19 May.

As stories go this comes close to blackening the good name of the saintly man who tweaked the Devil’s nose and the legend likely arose among disgruntled cidermakers who perhaps thought Dunstan wasn’t doing enough to protect their crop on his feast day.

The article also says that, because Dunstan was not only a blacksmith but also a silversmith and jeweller, the London Assay Office used to start its new hallmark year on his feast day:

He was, reputedly, a skilled blacksmith and jeweller and is generally venerated as a patron saint of smiths.

In his various roles as bishop and archbishop he worked hard to restore monastic life in England and reform the English church.

Dying in 988 he was canonised in 1029 and until Thomas Becket’s martyrdom in 1170 he was considered England’s favourite saint.

His association with silversmithing meant that for a good 600 years the London Assay Office hallmarks ran from 19 May (his feast day) to 18 May the following year. This was only changed in 1660 when Charles II moved it to his own birthday, 29 May.

What a fascinating history to a centuries-old legend about the lucky horseshoe.

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May 6, 2019 marks the Channel Tunnel’s Silver Anniversary:

Eurotunnel operates the Channel Tunnel, which transports Eurostar as well as Le Shuttle trains.

The original three destinations for Eurostar from the UK were Paris, Lille and Brussels.

Eurostar trains originally left and arrived from Waterloo Station. Now they leave from London St Pancras, which is next to Kings Cross Station:

Destinations have expanded to Lyon, Marseille and Amsterdam.

I remember at the time that The Economist, among other publications, was most sceptical about the viability of Eurotunnel traffic and financing.

Yet, over the years, more Eurostar and Le Shuttle (for road vehicles) trains travel to and from the Continent than 25 years ago.

What follows is a brief glimpse of Channel Tunnel rail history.

The concept of a Channel Tunnel dates back to 1802:

From Le Figaro‘s 1994 archives: the dual grand opening ceremonies. Danielle Mitterand, the president’s wife, is on the left:

Here is an original advert for Eurostar:

Here is the original Pierre Balmain tie from the men’s Eurostar uniform:

The trains remain the same:

On the big day, the Queen and the French president posed for a photo op on board a Le Shuttle train in the royal Rolls:

I remember the day well. After all the years of negativity about the project, opening day was one of celebration and optimism, at least in our household.

My better half and I went to Paris on a short break with friends the following year, travelling in business class on Eurostar. It was relaxing and scenic. The food was good, too.

We made several business trips on Eurostar afterwards. Although it is more expensive than flying, it is more convenient in many ways. Arriving in the centre of a city is much nicer than worrying about transport to and from the point of departure.

This is a huge day for European transport:

Brexit or not, long may Eurotunnel and its services continue.

If you missed it, please check out my last post on Notre-Dame de Paris, which ends with this stunning tweet, quickly deleted:

A Jesuit friend in Paris who works in told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set.

What follows is also a bit strange. It is the best glimpse of the flash from the cathedral before the fire started.

Note the time stamps in the tweets below. Did we know there was a Mass on the evening of Monday, April 15, 2019, that had to be evacuated?

I will come back to the mystery of this fire in another post.

Today’s entry looks at what had already been removed from the cathedral during renovations and what had been saved from the fire.

Fearless fire brigade chaplain

The Paris firefighters did an incredible and exceptional job, but special credit goes to their chaplain, the Revd Jean-Marc Fournier, who dashed into the burning structure to save the Blessed Sacrament and the gold Crown of Thorns, believed to be the one our Lord wore. The journalist who posted this tweet works for the Catholic network KTOTV, based in Paris:

Breitbart has more on Fr Fournier and the cathedral’s sacred contents. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Fournier has been in dangerous situations before:

The newspaper reports he responded with the fire brigade to the 2015 Bataclan terror attacks in Paris, where Islamist extremists killed 90 with rifles and suicide vests at a rock concert in the city, where he was “quickly on the scene after the attack… he helped remove the wounded from the hall and prayed with the bodies of the victims.”

The priest also served as a chaplain to the French army and survived an ambush in Afghanistan where ten French soldiers were killed.

Television network Sky News reports the remarks of one member of the Paris emergency services who said of the chaplain: “Father Fournier is an absolute hero.

He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the cathedral, and made sure they were saved. He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.”

In the following short video, Fr Fournier describes what he calls ‘the fire of the century’, extinguished by 600 firefighters. He also praised the fire chief and his ‘extraordinary intuition’ to save as much of the structure and its contents as possible.

Fournier said that his first thought on arrival was to rescue the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns.

He’s a good speaker, very well prepared. Francophones will appreciate this:

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Paris Philippe Marsset said that if there were miracles during the previous night, then our Lord surely worked through the Paris fire brigade:

One can understand why they were the guests of honour at the Easter Mass held at Saint-Eustache for Notre-Dame’s congregation. Archbishop Aupetit praised them for their courage and their ‘human genius which renders honour to God’s love’ for mankind:

Items already removed for renovation

A number of items had already been removed and stored for safekeeping during the cathedral’s renovation:

The 16 copper statues of the apostles and evangelists that adorned the roof of Notre-Dame made headlines last week as they were removed by crane for restoration work, intended to go two at a time over the course of the coming years. They now stand on palettes in a warehouse, having been saved from the fire which the restoration work, ironically, seems to have started.

Breitbart‘s article has photos of the statues’ removal. They were around the base of the spire, which burnt and broke off the cathedral. The statues will be restored in Perigueux, in southwest France. They will be returned once the new spire is completed, thought to be in 2022.

Items saved from the fire

Fr Fournier saved the Blessed Sacrament — consecrated hosts — and the Crown of Thorns from the fire:

Among the relics saved in the effort was Notre-Dame’s most famous and revered and holy relic, the gold-encrusted Crown of Thorns, believed to be the wreath of thorns that was placed on the head of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion.

A close up of the Crown of Thorns can be seen in another Breitbart article.

Elaborate candelabra and works of art were rescued and sent to City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) for safekeeping in St John’s Hall. St Louis’s tunic is also there. Paris’s City Hall is immense, so it is likely that the items can remain there for a long period of time.

The first tweet I saw on February 16 discussed the rooster from the top of the spire, with historic relics inside, including one of the Thorns:

As this historian said that same day, every time something else was rescued, it seemed like a miracle:

The 700-year-old statue of Our Lady was rescued. The cathedral’s rector said he saw it at midnight. He was grateful and expressed his gratitude that ‘the Mother of Jesus protected’ the cathedral built in her honour:

Tweets responding to the original one below indicate it might go to the Louvre temporarily:

This footage shows that, although there is ash all over the floor, the cabinets with the votive candles are unharmed — as is the magnificent rose window in the background:

Amazingly, all of the cathedral’s resident honeybees, living among three hives, survived:

Good News Network‘s article has an aerial photo of the hives’ location and explains:

For the last six years, there have been a trio of beehives nestled on top of the cathedral’s roof. The hives were just a few honeybee colonies that were installed across the city as a means of of boosting dwindling pollinator populations in Europe.

The hives have been managed by Notre Dame beekeeper Nicolas Geant since 2013; so when the Parisian cathedral caught fire last week, he anxiously awaited news of their condition …

Once specialists were finally able to check up on the honeybees, Geant was elated to hear that they were alive and well.

“It’s a big day. I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn,” Geant told The Associated Press. “Instead of killing them, the CO2 (from smoke) makes them drunk, puts them to sleep.”

That being said, the bees are particularly lucky because the hives reside only 100 feet under where the roof was burning. If their hives had been heated to 63 degrees Celsius (145.4 Fahrenheit), the hive wax would have melted and the bees would have perished.

“I wouldn’t call it a miracle, but I’m very, very happy,” Geant added.

Church bells tolled in solidarity

Church bells tolled in solidarity with the losses that Notre-Dame de Paris suffered in the fire.

NDTV reported that, in England, bells rang on Tuesday of Holy Week and again on Maundy Thursday:

Church bells will toll across England on Thursday in “solidarity” with France and its people as they mourn the Notre-Dame blaze, Prime Minister Theresa May said.

The bells of Westminster Abbey, the church opposite parliament where kings and queens have been crowned since 1066, will be rung on Tuesday at 1643 GMT – the time that Monday’s fire broke out, May said.

“Notre-Dame is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world – a symbol of France and the French people, and cherished across the globe,” Ms May said in a statement.

“The images of destruction we saw last night were truly heart-rending.”

Bells will then be rung across the country on Maundy Thursday, three days before Easter.

Mrs May paid tribute to:

the “swift and heroic action of the first responders, France has huge professionalism in dealing with emergencies of this kind”.

She also offered to help with restoration:

“When it comes to the task of rebuilding, French craftsmen and women are among the finest in the world,” said the British leader.

We stand ready to offer any UK experience and expertise that could be helpful in the work that lies ahead to restore this magnificent cathedral.”

On Wednesday of Holy Week, all French cathedrals rang their bells in solidarity with Notre-Dame de Paris. I would encourage those who love the Church and architecture honouring the glory of God to watch this brief video of France’s magnificent cathedrals:

Bell ringing also took place in other countries, such as Poland.

In closing this post, I would like to point out the following for the many who think the Church is people alone, without houses of worship. The Archbishop of Paris had this to say in his homily during the Chrism Mass on Wednesday of Holy Week:

What is the difference between a lump of stone and a cathedral? The same difference between a lump of cells and a human being.

Both have a sacred dimension.

AMEN!

Tomorrow’s post will look at the fire’s influence on Holy Week services in Paris.

This Tuesday of Easter Week is St George’s Day — April 23, 2019.

It is time the English reclaimed their patron saint’s feast day. Other countries are proud to celebrate this special day. How wonderful, therefore, to see a trend for St George’s Day on Twitter, which includes these delightful tweets:

On a contemplative note, the following are by two Catholics from the Archdiocese of Southwark in London:

Returning to Easter, conservative commentator Chuck Woolery’s witness for the faith gives pause for thought, as does the video in the first reply he received:

I also liked this reply to America’s First Lady’s Easter greetings (click on image link to see it in full):

On Easter Sunday, the Trumps attended a morning service at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach. The Daily Caller has photos, especially of First Lady Melania Trump.

While the Trumps posed for photo ops outside the church, back in Washington, things went less well for Robert Mueller, who was accosted by a reporter outside of St John’s Episcopal Church in Washington DC after worship.

I’m hardly a Mueller fan, but this is just plain wrong:

On Easter Monday, the Trumps hosted the traditional Easter Egg Roll at the White House:

This video shows the First Couple returning to the White House from Palm Beach on Sunday. The Easter Egg Roll event begins at 12:50:

Mrs Trump read to the children (fashion notes here) …

… as did Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, mother of four:

As ever, the day was packed with activities. On April 19, the White House announced:

First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald J. Trump invite this year’s Easter Egg Roll attendees to enjoy a variety of activities, including the time-honored Egg Roll and the Trump Administration’s Cards for Troops station. New to the Egg Roll this year: musical eggs and Be Best hopscotch. In recognition of the First Lady’s Be Best campaign, children will also have the opportunity to spread kindness by mailing postcards to anyone they choose – friends, family, members of the military – directly through a United States Postal Service mailbox that will be on the South grounds.

Over 30,000 attendees are expected to walk the historic south grounds of the White House, experiencing all the tradition and fun that comes with the White House Easter Egg Roll.

There were also egg hunts, egg and cookie decorating stations, the military bands, tennis court activities, and a chance for the children to meet costumed characters, such as the Easter Bunny:

Reading stations have been a big part of the Trump Easter Egg Rolls, with members of the president’s advisory team as well as the Cabinet. Imagine hearing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, General Joseph Keith Kellogg, Jr. or Surgeon General Jerome Adams reading a book to a group of children. If past readers of previous years are anything to go by, they no doubt did exceptionally well.

Mrs Trump was delighted with the event and her many guests:

I am so pleased this went well and without incident.

Tomorrow’s post concerns a very sad subject: the attacks on Sri Lankan churches at Easter.

In 2018, the redoubtable Candace Owens started a movement called Blexit, encouraging American blacks to leave the Democrat(ic) Party:

Black People Don’t Have to be Democrats.

The video in the tweet below shows the remnants of the latter years of segregation in the Democrat-controlled South:

Candace Owens has been involved with TurningPointUSA, headed by Charlie Kirk, founded to encourage a libertarian form of conservativism at American colleges and universities.

Through TurningPointUSA, Owens met a young Englishman, George Farmer, who has now launched TurningPointUK with the same objectives in mind at British universities.

TurningPointUK launched officially last week with three events in London, Nottingham and Brighton which took place between March 10 and 13, 2019.

Here’s a short video from February about what the organisation supports:

Owens and Farmer are engaged to be married. On Monday, March 11, they visited the House of Commons as the guests of pre-eminent Brexiteer, Jacob-Rees Mogg (C-North East Somerset).

This is when Blexit met Brexit:

I do hope Candace is right about ‘a free-speech takeover’ in Britain. We sorely need it.

Best wishes for both Blexit and Brexit — two movements I definitely support.

This year, Epiphany fell on a Sunday.

I was delighted to go to church and find the tree lit and the two Nativity scenes still in situ. The vicar announced from the pulpit, ‘The season is not over until Epiphany’, even though the churchwardens wanted to take all the Christmas decorations down on Saturday, January 5. Instead, they will come down on Monday, the 7th.

There are two old traditional European festive days that follow Epiphany.

One is St Distaff’s Day, or Roc Day, which is always on January 7. It has no religious significance, but is centuries old and is still a part of life in Europe where textiles and fibers are spun:

St Distaff’s Day — Distaff Day: January 7

The second is Plough Monday, still celebrated in a few English towns, which is the first Monday after Epiphany. Between the 15th and 17th centuries, the local church and parish community were involved. Afterwards, it returned to its secular roots:

The English tradition of Plough Monday

Plough Monday — the Monday after Epiphany

In 2019, the two coincide. Imagine what fun was had centuries ago when people celebrated both traditions on the same day.

As ever, we watched the Queen’s Christmas Message when it was broadcast at 3 p.m. on December 25:

The choir of King’s College Cambridge opened with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem.

The Queen then discussed the first ever service of Nine Lessons and Carols held at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. The service was 100 years old this Christmas Eve. The Revd Eric Milner White, who had served as a military chaplain in the Great War, devised the service as a means of conveying peace and goodwill so shortly after Armistice Day. As Her Majesty said, it:

spoke to the needs of the times.

She noted that the service, watched by millions around the world every year, begins with a chorister’s solo of the first verse of Once In Royal David’s City. The Queen’s Christmas Message ended with just such a solo. This video is well worth watching for the choral music alone — unsurpassed!

The Queen went on to speak of the great events of the past year, including the Royal Family, with its two weddings and two births that took place this year. She noted that the Prince of Wales celebrated his 70th birthday this year.

She had a spiritual message:

Through the many changes I have seen over the years, faith, family and friendship have been not only a constant for me but a source of personal comfort and reassurance.

The Queen also reflected on the number of Commonwealth nations, the strength of which:

‘lies in the bonds of affection it promotes’ and a ‘common desire to life in a better, more peaceful world’.

She also acknowledged the tireless work of the British Armed Forces stationed abroad at Christmas.

She concluded with a message about peace on Earth, which:

is “needed as much as ever” and also called for people treat others with respect, even in situations where there are “deeply held differences”.

I always look forward to hearing what the Queen has to say. This year’s message did not fail to impress.

2015 was the year I first tried Pinkster Gin — interestingly, at a wine tasting.

My friend and I had two samples each, neat.

Neither of us has forgotten the subtle yet distinctive flavour resulting from a marriage of raspberry with juniper.

As the label says, Pinkster is an ‘agreeably British gin’. It makes a perfect holiday or host(ess) gift.

Pinkster’s founder, Stephen Marsh, says that his doctor advised him to give up drinking wine and beer as they no longer agreed with him. After two years, his doctor said he could have vodka or gin only. Any self-respecting Englishman prefers gin.

Stephen Marsh tells his story and that of Pinkster in this video:

Marsh, who was a keen maker of liqueurs at home, wanted to create a gin that would go well with food. As juniper is the dominant aromatic in gin, it has to be tamed for it to accompany anything other than game. He began experimenting with fruit. The Pinkster website has more about his final choice of raspberry:

A keen maker of sloe liqueurs and other concoctions, he turned his attention to gin and started experimenting at home, mashing assorted fruits with different spirit strengths.

He wasn’t intentionally creating a pink drink, it’s just that after working his way through an entire fruit bowl, raspberry delivered the best flavour.

With the recipe developed, pals started encouraging him to go commercial.

The rest is history. Marsh, a former accountant working in London, was able to now make raspberry gin on a large scale:

G&J, one of the country’s oldest distillers, was recruited to the cause. They produce the core spirit with five botanicals to our original recipe.

We then macerate with a further three botanicals, including fresh, plump raspberries grown nearby our rural base outside Cambridge.

Marsh is still involved on a day-to-day basis:

Stephen still personally oversees the production, ensuring consistency from batch to batch of fresh fruit.

Ironically, being told to quit wine was the best advice he’s ever received.

I did not know about his health condition or that Pinkster goes well with food. It makes a cracking good gin and tonic.

Pinkster also has some splendid personalities when they appear at tasting venues. My friend and I will long remember the chap who poured us our samples that evening in 2015: traditionally jovial, he had us in stitches.

Pinkster’s marketing is also splendid, the best in the UK gin world to my mind. Have a look at a few of their tweets:

Indeed not!

Here is the scene of a recent tasting:

Pinkster makes a delightful gift all year around, but especially at Christmas:

Visit the Pinkster online shop for more gift ideas, including Christmas crackers, all beautifully packaged.

If the English aren’t enjoying a decent pint of ale or wine in the evenings, they’ll often be found drinking gin.

Two niche gins I can recommend come from Silent Pool Distillery in Surrey — not too far from London — which also offers tours.

Silent Pool produces several types of gin as well as tasting (Copa) glasses. One of their bottles or a boxed set makes a distinctive holiday or host(ess) gift.

Whilst I haven’t visited the distillery — 96% of Trip Advisor comments rate the tours positively — I have tried two of their gins: Silent Pool and Admiral Collingwood Navy Strength Hand Crafted Gin.

Silent Pool (£37, 70 cl, 43% ABV) comes in a pleasingly decorated green glass bottle with a snug fitting glass stopper. It has twice as many botanicals as the average upmarket gin. It is slightly cloudy when mixed with tonic and is characterised by light citrus and spice notes. The description reads:

Our signature gin, with 24 botanicals carefully chosen for their uniqueness. All the botanicals work together in unison to afford a romantic, complex flavour. Fresh floral and clarifying citrus notes are grounded by earthy and spicy cassia bark and cubeb. The smooth finish is achieved with the help of local honey. Refreshingly individual, intricately realised gin at an ABV of 43%. Recommended serve is with a generous handful of ice, a dash of tonic, and a twist of orange peel to garnish.

Admiral Collingwood (£32, 50 cl, 57% ABV) packs a punch. One friend said that it not only put hairs on but also removed them. The flavours are bold, reminiscent of herbs and spices:

The higher proof of this product allows a bold, robust flavour packed with rich juniper, floral angelica and bright citrus a hint of cardamom and nutmeg. It is a classic flavour profile which will stand up to any gin drink, enjoy in a G&T with a twist of lemon.

There are historical reasons why Navy gin was strong:

The gin was shipped at 57% ABV because if it happened to spill on the gunpowder at this strength, the powder would still light. It is also likely space saving might have had something to do with it….

Also:

Navy strength gins originate from the olden days when sailors used be paid in part with booze.

For the tasting, I enjoyed both gins neat, even though I was offered tonic water. A small sip of gin — a thimbleful, as my mother used to say — is best sampled that way.

I have since dipped into Silent Pool with tonic before dinner. Admiral Collingwood will be for the holidays, enjoyed as a treat which should last throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas.

I will be going to a general gin tasting in a few weeks’ time and am very much looking forward to it. Perhaps Silent Pool will be there.

At the end of May 2018, I wrote about the splendid dinner my better half and I enjoyed at Villandry Great Portland Street in London.

We had planned to return this month. Unfortunately, only yesterday, we discovered that all three Villandry restaurants — including the one in Bicester Village, Oxfordshire — closed on August 9.

What awful news. The one in Great Portland Street offered exceptionally good value, especially on wine.

Investigating, I found that London Eater had a post on August 6, based on a Sunday Times article. The post said, in part:

Accounts made up to March 2017 show that Bicester — lost to the site’s landlord in return for a “substantial payment to the company” — made up 47 percent of the group’s entire sales annually. Paired with a 100 percent rent increase at Great Portland Street and a 16 percent increase at St. James’s, losses amounted to almost £1.5 million, compared to £683,564 the previous year.

London Eater noted that Villandry was not the only mid-market restaurant group in trouble:

In the last week, steak restaurants Gaucho and Cau have been lined up for sale, while burger chain Byron admitted that its finances were in serious trouble despite wholesale changes to operational strategy. Villandry, open since 1998, has introduced “pizza and prosecco” and bottomless brunches in an attempt to improve sales, but the news suggests that these innovations aren’t doing enough to account for such a sharp rise in costs.

On August 9, Eater announced that the restaurants had closed:

Eater first learned of the closure from a tipster, who reported that the Great Portland street restaurant was being boarded up this morning. Later, both the Great Portland Street and St. James’s reservation lines rang dead …

Eater reported that the restaurants were struggling last week, with recently filed accounts showing substantial losses. These were mostly accounted for by the closure of a restaurant in Bicester, which had accounted for 47 percent of group turnover 2016-17. Coupled with a doubling of rent at Great Portland Street and a 16 percent increase at St James’s, the restaurants simply could not survive.

Villandry’s final tweet appeared that day, announcing their closure:

On July 10, Time Out posted a brief review that captured the essence of Villandry Portland Street perfectly (emphases mine):

It’s not often you find a restaurant where diners are happy to eat alone, but this is one such place, owing to the unshowy, affordable menu and the chance to sit unhurried and unjudged by easy-going staff. The menu covers all bases: burgers, salads, steaks, plenty of fish and seafood, and weekend brunch. Duck confit was tender and moist, and plum crumble a deliciously fruity concoction topped with chantilly cream.

Villandry seems genuinely happy to accommodate your whims, whether that’s a simple quiche in the restaurant or takeaway chocolates from the compact grocery area. It seems they’ve thought of everything: come summer, there’s a juice bar and a counter serving frozen yoghurt and ice-cream.

We are sorry to see this loss from the London restaurant scene. I wish Villandry’s former employees well.

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