History Files
 

 

Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of North London

by Peter Kessler, 1 May 2011

 

 

Camden Part 1: Churches of Holborn

St Giles-in-the-Fields

St Giles-in-the-Fields is on the south-west corner of St Giles High Street and Flitcroft Street. The first church on this site was founded as part of a leper hospital by Queen Matilda (wife of Henry I) in 1101. The chapel probably became the church for a small village, which serviced the hospital, with the lepers screened off. The hospital was dissolved in 1539 and its lands sold. The former chapel became the parish church, and the first rector was appointed in 1547.

St Giles-in-the-Fields

The earliest illustration shows a church with a round tower, capped by a dome - itself replaced by a larger spire in 1617. Shortly afterwards the church was considered ruinous and a Gothic brick church was built between 1623-1630. Less than a century later, the new church was itself in a poor condition from damp, probably caused by the large number of Plague victim burials. Henry Flitcroft built the present church in 1734. Inside is Wesley's pulpit from West Street Chapel.

Soho Baptist Chapel

Soho Baptist Chapel is on the corner of Shaftsbury Avenue and Mercer Street, immediately south of St Giles. Probably built in 1882, this church is one of a handful that has been renamed twice. Few firm conclusions can be drawn as to why the church has inscribed on it both Gower Street Chapel and Shaftesbury Chapel as well as the current name. It is thought that it may have been the centre of disputes amongst the early Baptist communities in central London.

Christ Church

Christ Church lies on the western side of Endell Street. The church was constructed in 1845 in the Early English style. It stood close to Bloomsbury Workhouse and gained its parish from part of that of St Giles. It was declared redundant and closed in 1929. The parish was re-united to St Giles, and part of the proceeds of the sale of the site went towards building St Michael, Tokyngton, in north-west London. Christ Church's furniture and fittings also went there.

Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church

Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church is on the corner of Bloomsbury Street and Bucknall Street. The building opened as Bloomsbury Chapel on 5 December 1848, the first Baptist chapel to stand proudly on a London street. Due to earlier restrictions on non-Anglican churches, and for reasons of economy, meeting-houses had formerly been hidden down back alleys and in upper rooms. Twin spires graced the towers until they were found to be unsafe and removed in 1951.

Church of St George Bloomsbury

The Church of St George Bloomsbury lies on the northern side of Bloomsbury Way, just east of the junction with New Oxford Street. The Commissioners for the Fifty New Churches Act of 1711 appointed Nicholas Hawksmoor, a pupil and former assistant of Sir Christopher Wren, to design and build this church on land purchased from the widow of Lord John Russell. The grand Baroque church was consecrated in 1730 by Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London.

Church of St George Bloomsbury

Despite the grandeur of Hawksmoor's design, the parish vestrymen felt that his completed church did not provide sufficient accommodation for the parish, so the church was re-orientated along a north-south axis in 1781. In 1913, St Georgeís the church was the setting for the memorial service for Emily Davison, the suffragette who threw herself under the kingís horse in the Derby. From 1956-1968, St Georgeís Bloomsbury served as the University of Londonís church.

St George the Martyr Holborn

St George the Martyr Holborn occupies the south-west corner of Queen Square and Cosmo Place in Bloomsbury, a short way north of St George Bloomsbury. The church was built as a chapel of ease in 1704 and opened in 1706. It was quite simple and elegant in design, with a beautiful grey stone tower. It gained its own parish in 1723. In 1867 it was drastically altered by S S Teulon when a chancel was formed on the south side (the north side is shown to the right of the photo).

St George the Martyr Holborn

At the same time, in 1867, the pews and most of the galleries were removed, the windows enlarged and given new tracery, a new spire was built and the insides refitted. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as St George's Bloomsbury, the church now serves as a community church in the Bloomsbury and Holborn areas. It is noted for its historic organ and many interior details, as well as its work with the poorer members of the Bloomsbury community.

St John the Evangelist Red Lion Square

St John the Evangelist Red Lion Square formerly stood on Red Lion Square, immediately to the north-east of Holborn Underground station. The church itself probably occupied the space opposite Dane Street, on the southern side of the present square. The church was opened in 1875 and gained its parish from that of St George the Martyr (above). It was rendered unusable by bombing in the Second World War and in 1952 the parish was united to St George, Bloomsbury.

In Depth
 

 

     
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