Before the forced amalgamation of Anglicanism in mainland China into the lianghui in 1958, it was an Anglican cathedral of the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, known as Holy Trinity Cathedral (simplified Chinese: 圣三一主教座堂; traditional Chinese: 聖三一主教座堂; pinyin: Shèngsānyī Zhujiaozuotáng), and the eldest such cathedral in China. It was colloquially known as "the Red Church". It was the English speaking Anglican church of Shanghai in 1866-1949. It also had a boys' school attached, built in 1928. This was attended by the author JG Ballard in his youth, and it features in his novel, Empire of the Sun. The 1st Shanghai Baden-Powell Group was based there. Later, it became the cathedral of the Diocese of Chekiang in 1930, still an English speaking church.
The neo-gothic architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott, was responsible for its early design. Its construction was supervised by William Kidner, a student in his office, who substantially modified the design to make it less costly and to seat more people. The foundation stone was built in 1866 and it was dedicated in 1869. Unlike other Anglican churches, it faces Jerusalem, which is roughly west. When introduced in 1914, it had the biggest organ in Asia.
Its spire was destroyed during the cultural revolution and has since been restored. During the cultural revolution, it was confiscated by the Huangpu District authorities and converted into a cinema. A stage was installed in the chancel, a second floor and sloping floor were introduced and the brickwork was covered by plaster and painted. Peter Hibbard, who described it as "a central feature of British life in a faraway land," was consulted in its restoration. The restoration was carried out by Zhang Ming Architectural Design Firm. Carved teak pews were provided by a furniture factory in Zhejiang province.