On the east side of Trafalgar Square is St. Martin-in-the-Fields and in the Crypt (basement) is a wonderful cafe, a shop, and The London Brass Rubbing Centre where you can try this old English pastime and create an artwork to take home.
I've always wanted to do this but I had the perfect excuse when trying out a London Pass as it included one free brass rubbing.
What is Brass Rubbing?
I guess brass rubbing is quite a British thing but I think we have all tried rubbing a crayon or pencil on paper over a bumpy surface beneath to see the pattern emerge and essentially that's what brass rubbing is all about.
British churches have/had many brass commemorative plaques and it was once popular to try and reproduce the image on paper by rubbing wax on paper laid on top.
The "brass" is the metal plaque and the London Brass Rubbing Centre have nearly 100 replica brasses to chose from with popular images such as medieval knights, George & the Dragon, and William Shakespeare. All are mounted on wooden blocks so can be moved and there are tables for you to sit at so it's a civilized pastime. And don't forget the cafe is just next door and you can bring your cuppa through which is what I did.
What To Expect
Once you choose your brass (starting price £4.50 in 2017), staff prepare it by securing a piece of black paper across the brass before explaining the techniques to follow to get the best result. I thought it would just be "rub like a mad woman" but there are ways to do it to achieve a professional finish and staff are happy to explain to all beginners, whatever their age.
There are also skills to learn about how to remove mistakes so everyone can produce a 'masterpiece'.
Wax crayons, graphite or chalk have been used in the past but the London Brass Rubbing Centre offers waxes in a choice of colors.
Brass rubbing is very calming and on a really busy day, I enjoyed the peace of the environment, a lovely cup of tea and a slice of cake from the Cafe in the Crypt, and the opportunity to try such a traditional pastime.
As I sat trying my first ever brass rubbing a few people came over to watch and I encouraged them to join in. There were young children, senior citizens and people of all ages in between giving it a go so it really is not just for the kids. Of my whole day, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this and I'll definitely go back. I stayed for an hour and for under £5 all materials were included and staff helped when I made mistakes making this very good value. You can buy a poster tube or they can offer picture hangers for free.
London WC2N 4JJ
Mon-Wed: 10am - 6pm
Thurs-Sat: 10am - 8pm
Sun: 11.30am - 5pm
About St Martin-in-the-Fields
This landmark Anglican church in the heart of London was built between 1722 and 1726 based on a neoclassical design by James Gibbs. There has been a church on the site since the medieval period. The church hosts regular music performances and recitals and has been a concert venue for over 250 years. Handel and Mozart have both performed at the venue. There are free lunchtime performances on most days midweek. Refuel at the Cafe in the Crypt, an atmospheric spot beneath an 18th-century brick-vaulted ceiling.
The shop sells a range of fairtrade gifts, jewelry, and souvenirs.