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A Gem of Restoration: Revitalizing St Mary le Strand and Its Community

A Gem of Restoration: Revitalizing St Mary le Strand and Its Community
A Gem of Restoration: Revitalizing St Mary le Strand and Its Community

St Mary le Strand, nestled in the bustling heart of London's Strand, stands as a beacon of historical significance and architectural splendor. This iconic Church of England building, with its roots tracing back to 1724, has not only been a place of worship but a steadfast pillar for the community. Under the dedicated leadership of Vicar Peter Babington, St Mary le Strand embarks on an ambitious restoration project, calling for the community's support to preserve this heritage and expand its mission.

A Gem of Restoration: Revitalizing St Mary le Strand and Its Community
A Gem of Restoration: Revitalizing St Mary le Strand and Its Community

A Storied Past

St Mary le Strand, a masterpiece by James Gibbs, is the first of the "Queen Anne Churches," built to serve a growing London in the early 18th century. Its rich baroque design, with influences from Italian and English architecture, has made it a landmark, celebrated as "the finest eighteenth-century church in London" by Simon Jenkins in his book England’s Thousand Best Churches.

The church has withstood the test of time and adversity, narrowly escaping demolition in the early 20th century and surviving the London Blitz with minimal damage. Its resilience mirrors the spirit of its parishioners, who have fought to preserve and enhance its glory.

A Gem of Restoration: Revitalizing St Mary le Strand and Its Community
A Gem of Restoration: Revitalizing St Mary le Strand and Its Community

The Jewel in the Strand Project

On the face of it, this project is about a beautiful 18th-century church, but it’s fundamentally about people and communities, not bricks and mortar. The Jewel in the Strand project, spearheaded by Vicar Peter Babington and supported by committed parishioners and volunteers, aims to address critical issues such as accessibility, structural integrity, and community engagement.

St Mary le Strand's Jewel in the Strand project is central to the wider Strand Aldwych Project. St Mary le Strand is a sanctuary—a place of welcome, worship, and well-being—at the heart of the Strand Aldwych of Northbank. This area is undergoing a long-term transformation with the East Strand being pedestrianized to create a new landscaped public space and ‘global cultural thinking quarter’ for the City of Westminster.

The project envisions creating spaces within the church for community and school groups, enhancing its role as a place of connection and learning. This transformation aims to make St Mary le Strand a dynamic part of London's cultural landscape, accessible and relevant to all.

Vicar Peter Babington - St Mary le Strand

Community and Heritage

St Mary le Strand is not just a historical building; it is a vibrant community hub. It serves as the official church of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and is a cherished venue for significant events and daily worship. The church's strategic location, amidst cultural institutions and universities, positions it as a potential center for cultural and educational activities.

The Jewel in the Strand project focuses on the impact that these physical improvements can have on the lives of individuals and communities who frequent the Strand Aldwych area for leisure, work, and study. The church, currently inaccessible to those requiring step-free access, also houses an outdated and hazardous 19th-century boiler in its crypt. The restoration project plans to remedy these issues, ensuring that the church is safe, welcoming, and functional for future generations.

HRH Princess Katarina and Vicar Peter Babington during a memorial service on 3rd July 2024

Call for Support

Restoring St Mary le Strand is no small feat. It requires the collective effort and generosity of the community. The church invites everyone to contribute to this noble cause, whether through donations, sponsoring a flower, or volunteering time and skills. With the National Lottery Heritage Fund's investment in the development phase, the project is poised to bring significant benefits, but it needs continued support to reach its full potential.

Proposed Works and Involvement

The proposed capital works will:

  • Deliver urgent repair and conservation works

  • Introduce flexible Nave furnishings

  • Sustainably renew heating, lighting, and AV systems

  • Improve the Churchyard

  • Introduce step-free access

  • Create the Strand Crypt, opening up the Church to new audiences, building on its current track record of delivering concerts, art exhibitions, and a variety of one-off cultural and community events

In addition to these capital works, the Church will work with local project partners, volunteers, and consultant Activity Planners to research and tell more diverse stories through on-site interventions and activities, making this site relevant and accessible to everyone, regardless of their background, for generations to come.

Join the Journey

Canon Peter Babington, with his extensive experience in parish ministry, is leading this transformative journey. His vision is to restore St Mary le Strand not just as a historic monument but as a revitalized center for worship, community, and cultural engagement.

"St Mary le Strand is more than a building; it's a sanctuary and a symbol of resilience and unity. We have a unique opportunity to preserve its legacy while making it relevant and accessible for the future," says Canon Babington.

Get Involved

To learn more about the project or explore ways to contribute, visit St Mary le Strand's official website or contact the church office. Whether you're sponsoring the restoration of the Strand Crypt or joining the team of 40 active volunteers, your support will help ensure that St Mary le Strand continues to shine as a beacon of hope and heritage in the heart of London.

Through the efforts of dedicated individuals and the support of a caring community, St Mary le Strand stands ready to embark on a new chapter. This historic church, with its blend of architectural beauty and community spirit, calls on all of us to help preserve its legacy for future generations.

Photos by Rod Leon

Article by the

Parliament News Press Room


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