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Gallery: Churches of Central London
by Peter Kessler, 7 August 2010
City of Westminster Part 4: Churches of
Leicester Square & Soho
Westminster Friends Meeting House (Quakers)
is at 52 St Martin's Lane, opposite Cecil Court, near Trafalgar Square.
It opened in 1883, was damaged during the Second World War and reopened
in 1956. The first London meeting house was close to the
abbey on a site now occupied by Church House (1666-1776). The meeting
moved to St Martin's Lane in 1779 (a new building close to St Peter's
Court - a site now under or near the Duke of York's Theatre).
Notre Dame de France Catholic Church,
Leicester Square's French Catholic Church, is on the eastern side
of Leicester Place, immediate north of the square. The church opened
as a mission for French workers in 1865, built all in iron, which made
it one of the architectural conversation-pieces of London. The rallying
point of thousands of French soldiers, sailors and civilians during the
Second World War, it was partly destroyed by bombing in 1940, and
rebuilt in 1953-1955.
The Welsh Presbyterian Church is on the
western side of Charing Cross Road, opposite the entrance to
Litchfield Street. The church was built in 1886-1887 to a design
by James Cubitt (1836-1912), a specialist builder of nonconformist
chapels who was himself the son of a Baptist minister. The church
was still active in 1964, but closed at some point after that. By
2009 it was the 'Walkabout' pub and sports bar, with its entrance
on Shaftsbury Avenue.
West Street Chapel is on the eastern
side of the street which is between Shaftsbury Avenue and Upper
St Martin's Lane. The chapel was put up in 1700 for French Huguenots,
and between 1743-1798 it was leased by John and Charles Wesley as the first
Methodist chapel in London. In 1799 it became Free Episcopal, and was then
successively Irish Anglican, Evangelical Anglican, a chapel of ease
to St Giles-in-the-Fields, and is now in commercial use.
St Mary the Virgin Crown Street lay on the
western side of Charing Cross Road (formerly Crown Street), opposite
Flitcroft Street. It was originally the site of The Greek Church,
which was never fully built (only the chancel and the north aisle were
completed). In 1851 it became Anglican, claiming a parish from St Anne's,
Soho, in 1854. The church was closed in 1932 and demolished by 1934. The
Greek-inscribed stone that lay inside it went to St Sophia Cathedral,
The Chapel of the House of St Barnabas-in-Soho
is on the north side of Manette Street, which links Charing Cross Road to
Greek Street in Soho. Founded in 1846 as a beautiful example of the
'Oxford Movement' style, research suggests that the chapel was Charles
Dickens' imagined rooms for Dr Manette and Lucie who also sat in the
garden 'under the plane trees'. Today it pays host to the Macedonian
Orthodox Church of the Holy Archangel Michael & All Angels.
St Patrick's Catholic Church Soho Square is
on the eastern side of the square. Laid out in the 1680s on Soho Fields,
it was one of London's most fashionable addresses. In 1760 Carlisle
House, which stood on part of the site of St Patrick's, was leased by
Theresa Cornelys, one of the mistresses of Casanova. The square drifted
towards trade and became less fashionable so that land became available
for St Patrick's between 1891-1893, to serve local Irish and Italian
The French Protestant Church of London, Soho
Square, is on the north side of the square. It was built in 1891-1893
on the site of the former Soho Academy. The design was by Sir Aston Webb,
a reminder of a time when nearly half of Soho's population was French
Huguenot, for a congregation that came here indirectly from St Martin's
Le Grand, via temporary quarters at the Athenaeum Hall, Tottenham Court
Road. It is now London's only Huguenot church.
La Petite Patente French Chapel was on the
north side of Little Chapel Street (from 1937, Sheraton Street). It
was built on land leased in 1694, attracting Huguenots who eventually
abandoned the Berwick Street French Chapel (one of many such French
chapels in town - another chapel was built in Spitalfields). Methodist
in 1784, the Presbyterian Wardour Chapel in 1796, and the Wesleyan
West Central London Mission in 1889, the chapel was demolished about 1894.
St John the Baptist Great Marlborough Street
used to overlook Foubert's Place, slightly to the east of the building
shown here. Houses Nos 49 and 50 were demolished so that the church
could be built. From September 1869 a temporary iron church was
opened on part of the back premises, until the church was completed.
A lack of funds meant that this took a while, between 1871-1885,
when it finally opened. It gained its own parish in 1886 but was
closed in 1937.