St Mary's Paddington breaks new ground

Published: Tuesday, December 5, 2017


St Mary Magdalene Church in Paddington, London, was chosen by the Friends of the National Churches Trust as the first winner of our Friends Grant in June 2017. We follow their progress as they celebrate the ground-breaking for their major community development project.

St Mary Magdalene was awarded a £40,000 Cornerstone Grant in December 2016 to help fund a project for the restoration of the historic fabric of the building and the stunning interior, and the £10,000 Friends Grant in July 2017

This is part of a wider Heritage Lottery Fund funded project that includes the construction of a new annex. It will serve as a hub for community, heritage and cultural activities.

On 23 November 2017, the Acting Bishop of London Rt Revd Pete Broadbent took part in a special ground-breaking celebration for the new annex, marking a major milestone in the redevelopment project.

Project patron John Julius Norwich also spoke of the historic social mission of the church. Local pupils from St Mary Magdalene Primary School presented a time capsule containing items chosen from each class at the school, such as poems, predictions, and facts about their lives in 2017.

Ten years in the making

The project is the culmination of ten years of fundraising and planning between St Mary Magdalene Church and the Paddington Development Trust. As well as grants from the National Churches Trust, the project was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £3.6 million in 2016.

The St Mary Magdalene Development Project has also received generous support from Westminster City Council, and other grant-making trusts, including Power to Change, John Lyon’s Charity, City Bridge Trust, and Allchurches Trust. The overall cost of the project is estimated at £7.3 million. Fundraising continues to complete the target.

Taking a key role in community life

The construction of the new church annex by Lengard Ltd will take twelve months. Once complete the new facilities will allow St Mary Magdalene to a play a key role in community life, just as it did before the old housing which made up its parish was swept away following the Second World War to make way for the Warwick Estate in the 1950s and 60s.

Designed by Dow Jones Architects, the new facilities will feature a learning space, a café opening onto the Grand Union canal, a cultural venue, and an affordable flexible space for use by local groups and residents. There will be:

  • A changing programme of events, including drop-in family activities and heritage-focussed lunch club sessions in the new café for older people.
  • Formal training opportunities including apprenticeships and work placements as well as English classes and sessions in history, architecture and art.
  • 200 volunteering opportunities suiting different interests including research, conservation, and customer service.

The parish is also granting the Paddington Development Trust a lease to manage the building, a pioneering use of new church legislation which allows consecrated churches to be leased to community organisations. Since 1997 the Paddington Development Trust has been working with local people to develop and deliver services for the community. 

Restoration of a historically significant church

The development project will also support the restoration of the church building, led by Lengard Ltd with the assistance of specialists Cliveden Conservation. Works underway includes specialist cleaning to reveal the church’s remarkable ceiling paintings; and local people have also been volunteering to play a hands-on part in the ambitious programme.

St Mary Magdalene Church is a Grade I listed church and currently on Historic England's ‘At Risk’ Register. The project will help restore the church’s historic fabric, significantly extending the life of the building and ensuring that St Mary Magdalene can continue in its traditional role as a place of worship.

Built in the 1860s-70s by G.E. Street, the building is recognized as an outstanding example of neo-Gothic architecture and decoration. There is an almost completely intact internal decorative scheme of the highest quality, including the later addition of the Chapel of St Sepulchre by Sir Ninian Comper (1864-1960) in the undercroft.

 The Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden and Acting Bishop of London said:

“I was delighted to take part in St Mary Magdalene Church’s ground-breaking celebration which not only marks the end of ten years of preparation, but also the beginning of the next chapter in the long life of this historic church in the heart of central London.”

 Fr Henry Everett, Vicar of St. Mary Magdalene Church said:

"The great joy of having a church completely full of scaffolding is that every time I go in I see something beautiful or extraordinary that I've never seen before. It is so exciting to be starting the conservation work which will reveal the true beauty of St Mary Magdalene's, and the new building, which will enable us to do so much more in our service to the local community."

 Neil Johnston, Chief Executive, Paddington Development Trust said:

“PDT has long understood the potential of St Mary Mags - as well as transforming the building, this is about change for individuals, change for the community and ultimately change for London. This is a very special building that both local people and London artists and creators will make their own. We will be running new educational, arts and cultural programmes and activities when we open next year, so watch this space!"

  • The groundbreaking ceremony at St Mary Magdalene Church (Gabby Ritchie)

  • Fr Henry Everett, Vicar of St. Mary Magdalene Church, with pupils from St Mary Magdalene School (Gabby Ritchie)

  • Pupils from St Mary Magdalene School bury the time capsule (Gabby Ritchie)

  • Rt Revd Pete Broadbent; John Julius Norwich; Fr Henry Everett; Neil Johnston (Gabby Ritchie)

  • Scaffolding goes up at St Mary Magdalene Church (Ian Hessenberg)

  • Restoration work in progress (Ian Hessenberg)

  • Restoration work in progress (Ian Hessenberg)

  • Restoration work in progress (Ian Hessenberg)

  • Much needed restoration work (Ian Hessenberg)