The history of St Patrick’s is, shall we say, colourful.
This large church was of similar layout to nearby St Martin in the Fields with a gallery on three sides above the nave. St Anne’s became famous for its high musical standards, and the director of music here, Dr William Croft, wrote the tune ‘St Anne’ in 1708 (a tune still used for the hymn ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past).
The unusual tower, which is still visible, is a ‘new’ one, added in 1803 to replace the original one of 1711 which had become unsafe. The tower with its clock, which even today is still wound by hand, is the only remaining part of the ‘old church’ which was bombed in the blitz of 1940.
After years as a bomb site and car park it was due to the tenacity of members of The Soho Society that, in 1991, the present building was created.
Even when there was no church building here, the church community remained active. The author Dorothy L Sayers was churchwarden here and her ashes are buried in the base of the tower. She was a leading figure of the strong literary association that surrounded St Anne’s, The St Anne’s Society.
St Anne’s has a long history of being socially inclusive and engaged with its diverse and ever changing community. One of the clergy here, Ken Leech, started the charity for young homeless people ‘Centrepoint’ out of this church, a project which continues today.
The churchyard was leased to the City Council in 1894, having been closed to burials forty years earlier, largely as a result of one Sexton illegally dumping the bodies in the ground having sold their coffins for firewood. It is believed that in addition to the essayist William Hazlitt about 80,000 bodies are buried there. This explains why the ground is so high above the entrance on Wardour Street, something people who lie there eating their sandwiches on sunny summer lunchtime are probably quite unaware of!