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Gallery: Churches of Central London
by Peter Kessler, 28 November 2010
City of Westminster Part 8: Churches of
St Matthew's Westminster is on the northern side
of Great Peter Street, with access to the east onto St Anne's Street.
With the population of Westminster growing rapidly in the eighteenth
century St John Smith Square was built, but it became apparent that this
was not enough. The area around Great Peter Street had deteriorated by the
1840s and people lived in poor conditions. In response, as one of four new
regional churches, St Matthew's was built in 1849.
Sir George Gilbert Scott supplied the design. Consecrated
in 1851, it was later enriched with fittings and glass by G F Bodley, C E Kempe
& Co, and others. The money was never found to add the proposed spire to the
tower, but the Lady Chapel is one of Sir Ninian Compers' finest early works.
Gutted by fire in 1977 the church was reconstructed to a reduced plan and
rededicated in 1984. The new parish centre now obscures the church on the
corner with St Ann's Street.
Westminster Baptist Church occupies a plot
on the northern side of Horseferry Road, approximately fifty metres east
of the junction with Regency Street. The church was founded in 1807, although
the premises which it occupied at that date are unknown. The church moved to
the current site in 1935, perhaps converting this building from secular use.
In 2009 the building was renovated. Unfortunately, little data is available
on the church or the buildings it has owned.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church is on the northern
side of Horseferry Road, opposite Regency Street, a few doors west of the
Baptist church. It was built as Westminster Wesleyan Chapel about 1874.
In 1927 it was sold and donated by the new owner to the archdiocese of
Westminster. In 1939 plans were submitted for the Convent of the
Sacred Heart to be built but the church was destroyed on 14 March
1944 by enemy action. It was reconstructed in 1962-1963.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin Tothill Fields
stood on the western corner of Vincent Square, a large space of
ground covering about ten acres, which once formed part of Tothill
Fields. The church was consecrated in October 1837 to the designs of
Edward Blore, and gained its own parish in 1843. Probably due to
falling attendances, it closed in 1923 and was demolished. Today
only the entrance gateposts remain. It was sometimes referred to as
Tothill Fields Church.
St Stephen Rochester Row stands on the eastern
side of Rochester Row, between Rochester Street and Vincent Square,
opposite a row of almshouses. The church was built between 1847-1850 by
Miss Angela Burdett-Coutts, of the Coutts banking family, as a memorial
to her father, with encouragement from Charles Dickens, her friend. The
church, in fourteenth century Decorated Gothic style, was designed by
the architect Benjamin Ferrey, a pupil of the elder Pugin.
A tower and spire were added on the northern side,
nearly sixty-one metres high. A ring of eight bells was cast by Charles
and George Mears in 1850 and was hung in the new tower in a new frame.
The bells were donated to the church by Angela Burdett-Coutts (later to
become a baroness). These bells were replicated in the ring at New
Westminster Cathedral, Canada, and were also given by Baroness Burdett-Coutts
(although they have since been destroyed).
Christ Church Broadway lay on the northern
side of Victoria Street, on the western corner with Broadway. As early
as the thirteenth century St Mary Magdalene Chapel stood in the
area then known as Tutle or Tothill Fields. During the Dissolution the
chapel and lands in Tothill Fields were placed under the control of
Westminster Abbey. By 1598 the chapel was apparently ruinous. The
New Chapel was built in December 1626, but it only opened in 1642.
During the Commonwealth period the chapel was
used as a stables and a jail, remaining unconsecrated until after
the Restoration. By the early 1800s it had fallen into disrepair and
was demolished. Christ Church Broadway was built on the site, designed by
early Gothic revival architect Ambrose Poynter. Consecrated in 1843,
on 17 April 1941 it was gutted by German incendiaries. The remnants were
demolished in 1954 and just part of the churchyard retained as the
Westminster Chapel stands southern side of
Buckingham Gate, opposite Petty France. The chapel is an Evangelical
church that has been based in Central London since 1840. The present
building was opened on 6 July 1865, founded by Congregationalists. It
was pastored by the late Dr D Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 1939-1968. During
this period the church resigned from the Congregational Union and became
a member of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches.