Amongst the shops and hotels near Paddington London lies a selection of churches. Whether you are away on business or on holiday, sometimes a visit to a church is needed for comfort and peace or a trip to admire the exceptional architecture and history can be an insightful one. Despite Paddington being one of the busiest stations in London, there are some beautiful churches scattered around the area.
St Mary on Paddington Green
This Anglican church is situated in the Parish of Little Venice in London which is part of the Paddington Green conservation section. It is the third to be built on the site but has a fantastic history due to John Donne, the English poet and cleric, preaching his first sermon at the first church and William Hogarth, the legendary English painter and engraver, getting married in the second site.
The present church was built in 1788 and was consecrated in 1791; it is designed in the style of a Greek cross, where all of the arm lengths and widths are the same. It was designed by John Plaw and is the only building of his work left in the UK.
St Mary’s Chruchyard was transformed into a park for the public in 1890 and now bears the name St Mary’s Gardens. It holds the grave of Sarah Siddons, a well-known and well-respected 18th century actress and contains a selection of trees that provide a haven from the hustle and bustle of the London streets.
Saint James’s Church
Hidden between the hotels near Paddington London is the exquisite Saint James’s Church in Sussex Gardens. In 1841, permission was given for the building of a new church costing the public £9,000 and in 1843 the new church, dubbed the Church of St James the Less, was consecrated by Bishop Charles Blomfield. It became the Parish Church of Paddington in 1845 and grew in popularity, so much so that the vicar at the time, Reverend Walter Abbott, decided to pull down most of the church to make way for more seating as it could hold just 800 people which was not thought to be a very large congregation. G.E Street was enlisted to redesign the church in a more Gothic style and it was re-consecrated in December 1882. In 1884, the most famous wedding of the year took place at Saint James’s Church, the wedding of Constance Mary Lloyd and the famous dramatist Oscar Wilde.
St John’s Hyde Park
St John’s and the Hyde Park area was built a short distance away from the infamous Tyburn Gallows, however, the building of this sacred place didn’t commence until after the Tyburn Gallows were moved. The church was built in response to the growing population around the Paddington area and the merging of the villages and once the gallows were moved to Newgate Prison in 1783 and the Building Act of 1795, construction began.
The development took 3 years and was finally consecrated in 1832 by the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Charles James Blomfield. It was built to house 1500 with 800 seats rented, this brought in an annual sum of £681 a year. It housed a beautiful organ which was played by Felix Mendelssohn at his last tour in 1839-1840. 1840 saw the population grow again and St James’s Sussex Gardens was established and built by John Goldicutt and George Gutch; this was completed in 1843.
St Mary Magdalene
This church is seen as a landmark in Paddington and, due to the streets that used to enclose it being demolished, it can be seen from Little Venice and the journey from Royal Oak. Its design is a unique one as it was once squeezed into a small site therefore its dainty appearance looks slightly out of place amongst the vast land it now inhibits. It is seen as George Edmund Street’s work of art in the city and it prides itself on its beauty but also on its warm community spirit. This church is very much seen as the quintessential community church and whether you are visiting the area and are in need of some guidance, or you are part of the local area, there is always a warm welcome. A visit to this church is a must, even if it is just to see the unusual architecture of the church.
Not only is the church a place of worship but it has been used for countless television and film locations. It played a vital role in “The Blue Lamp” that was made in 1949 and in “A Secret Ceremony” which starred world-renowned actresses Elizabeth Taylor and Mia Farrow. The interior of St Mary Magdalene’s was used for a memorial service in the film “The Constant Gardener” and its crypt has been made famous by the legendary television programmes “Poirot” and “Lewis.” This church has also been immortalised in print thanks to the P.D.James novel; “A Taste for Death”, even the vicar in the novel is based on the vicar at St Mary Magdalene’s at the time.