St Mary Magdalene, Paddington

On a cold day in December 2017, Allchurches Trust attended a ground-breaking ceremony that had been 10 years in the planning. St Mary Magdalene’s Church on the canal at Paddington, with Little Venice on one side and Warwick Estate on the other, is undergoing a major restoration and phase one - the church itself - is now close to finished.

St Mary Mags, as it is affectionately known, is widely recognised as George Edmund Street’s masterpiece in London, built while he was working on the Royal Courts of Justice. It's Grade I and was a favourite of Betjeman’s but in the later 20th century it fell into decay and was placed on the 'heritage at risk' register.

The church is being transformed into a community and heritage hub serving one of the most religiously and culturally diverse wards in London.

The undercroft, which was a film set for Les Miserables and once graced by Australian actor Hugh Jackman, will now be a space for adult education and arts activities, as well as benefiting children from the neighbouring primary school.

“The Project aims to make St Mary Mags into a heritage, cultural and arts centre for north Paddington, while refurbishing it as a living place of worship. To achieve that, we need to build a new ‘heritage wing’ between the church and St.Mary Magdalene Primary School, which will house a lift connecting all levels, a bar and other amenities, a café at canalside level, and an education space.

"Inside the church, the painted surfaces of the nave ceiling, the chancel vault and the chancel walls have all been cleaned and conserved, and the stained glass windows repaired.

"The undercroft is being transformed into a flexible, accessible community and events space and a new vestry will be created. In the longer term, the Ninian Comper Chapel will also be conserved."

Local people have worked with an artist to design and create tiles that will sit within special recesses in the walls. Along with a timeline on the stairs, these will tell the 200-year story of St Mary Mags.

“The aims of the Project, to enrich local people’s lives through heritage, art and culture, fit exactly with our own sense of mission, which embraces the approach to God through beauty.”

Fr Henry Everett

Young people in the area have made films that will be shown on screens within a special map in the entrance foyer, while oral histories will be available at the touch of a button throughout the building, as well as on the project website.

Allchurches Trust is looking forward to returning to this architectural gem when the project is finished in Spring 2019 to join local people enjoying the canalside café terrace that will bear our name in thanks for our £75,000 grant.