Bishop of London celebrates tercentenary at St Mary le Strand
On Wednesday evening, the Bishop of London joined over 100 members of the congregation at St Mary le Strand and local dignitaries, to celebrate the tercentenary of the historic church. The Bishop presided and preached at the service and following the celebrations all in attendance moved outside, where the Bishop gave a special blessing for the newly repaved churchyard.
Alongside the local members of the parish, the Bishop was joined by the Area Dean of Westminster (St Margaret), the Revd Philip Chester; the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Audrey Lewis Councillor; Ward Councillor, Tim Mitchell and the Australian High Commissioner, the Hon Alexander Downer. Local clergy from around the parish also joined the service, including Professor Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College, London; the Revd Prebendary Alan Moses, Chair of the House of Clergy and Canon Rex Davis, formerly Sub Dean of Lincoln Cathedral.
During the service, the Bishop also heard from the church’s choir as they sang hymns including Blessed city, heavenly Salem and Christ is our cornerstone.
Following the ceremony, Margery Roberts, a churchwarden at St Mary Le Strand said:
"It was a great celebration of a lovely church which has survived two world wars and much else. I was not the only one to feel moved when the choir sang, in Latin, ‘This place was made by God, a priceless sacrament; it is without reproach’. [Locus Iste]."
St Mary le Strand, which is located in the middle of the Strand, has a long and interesting history. The original medieval church was pulled down in 1549 by Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, to make way for Somerset House. The current church was then rebuilt between 1714 and 1724, by the celebrated architect James Gibbs and St Mary le Strand has since been remembered as his Baroque Masterpiece.
The current St Mary le Strand was one of fifty new churches built in London under the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches, an Act of Parliament in England in 1710, with the purpose of building fifty new churches for the rapidly growing conurbation of London. Despite this ambitious plan, only twelve of these churches were ever built, with St Mary le Strand being the first.
Unlike many London churches, St Mary le Stand managed to escape severe damage during the Second World War, as the inspecting architect would sit in the church’s muniment room during the bombings, to push incendiary bombs off the roof.