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.
If you buy a London Pass, you have a perfect excuse to give this tradition a try. Among its many benefits, the pass includes one free brass rubbing.
What Is Brass Rubbing?
Brass rubbing is quite a British thing but if you've tried rubbing a crayon or pencil on paper over a bumpy surface beneath to see the pattern emerge, that's essentially what brass rubbing is all about.
British churches have featured 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 has 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.
What to Expect
Once you choose your brass (starting price £4.50 in 2018), staff prepare it by securing a piece of black paper across the brass before explaining the techniques to follow to get the best result. It may seem simple, 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, it's nice to enjoy the peace of the environment along with 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.
You'll find young children, senior citizens and people of all ages in between giving it a go, and their enthusiasm confirms that this activity isn't just for the kids. For less than £5, all materials are included and there's staff on hand to correct any mistakes. You can buy a poster tube or get picture hangers for free. All in all, this activity is a good value.
About the Area
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 fair trade gifts, jewelry, and souvenirs.