This is the 'Oranges and Lemons' church, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in 1682, burnt out during World War II and reconsecrated as the Central Church of the Royal Air Force in 1958 with antique and modern silver, RAF Books of Remembrance, Squadron Standards and Badges.
St Mary le Strand is a justly celebrated architectural gem and a widely recognised landmark building. It has a grand and dignified worship space which makes it a sanctuary and place of peace in the heart of the district.
After the Great Fire and the subsequent rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral, the City Commissioners proposed a scheme to build fifty new churches for London, of which St Mary’s is the first. The original church of St Mary le Strand was demolished in 1549 to make way for Somerset House. In 1711, the parishioners successfully petitioned the Commissioners that a church should be reinstated in the Strand and work begun in 1714.
The new church was consecrated on 1st January 1724. The church is a fine and beautiful example of baroque design by James Gibbs, an architect of high technical competence and originality, informed by a sophisticated knowledge of ancient, Renaissance and contemporary European architecture. The church, in its landmark setting in the middle of the Strand, is a magnificent and memorable sight, enhanced by the important visual connection with St Clement Danes church a short way to the east.
As a Church of England parish church St Mary’s has been a centre of parish worship and London life since the early 18th Century. The church’s prominent location in the heart of the metropolis on the processional route from Westminster and Buckingham Palace to the City of London is just part of its wider significance than the purely local. St Mary’s is the London church of the WRENS (the Women’s Royal Naval Service).