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Churches of the British Isles

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), St Martin's Lane, Westminster, London

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 Place, Westminster, London

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.

Welsh Presbyterian Church, Charing Cross Road, Westminster, London

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, Shaftsbury Avenue, Westminster, London

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, Westminster, London

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, Bayswater.

The Chapel of the House of St Barnabas-in-Soho, Manette Street, Westminster, London

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, Westminster, London

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 communities.

French Protestant Church of London, Soho Square, Westminster, London

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, Little Chapel Street, Westminster, London

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, Westminster, London

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.

Eight photos on this page by P L Kessler, one supplied by Westminster City Archives, and one kindly contributed by Alison Day via the 'History Files: Churches of the British Isles' Flickr group.



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