St Mary Abbots

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For the associated hospital, see St Mary Abbots Hospital.
St Mary Abbots
St Mary Abbots Church Kensington.jpg
St Mary Abbots in 2007
Basic information
Location Kensington, London, England
Affiliation Anglican
Year consecrated 1262
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Parish church
Architectural description
Architect(s) Sir George Gilbert Scott
Architectural style Neo Gothic
Completed 1872 [1]
Capacity 700 [2]
Length 179 feet (55m)[2]
Width 109 feet (34m)[2]
Spire(s) One
Spire height 278 feet [2]

St Mary Abbots is a church located on Kensington High Street, London at the intersection with Kensington Church Street. The present church was built in 1872 by the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott in neo-Gothic Early English style. It was the latest in a succession of churches which have stood on the site since around 1100. The church has the tallest spire in London.


Aubrey de Vere was a Norman knight given the manor of Kensington after the Norman conquest. Around 1100, his son Godfrey was taken seriously ill but was cured by Faritius, the Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary at Abingdon.[2]

In gratitude Godfrey bequeathed the church in Kensington, with 270 acres (1.1 km2), to the abbey. In 1262 the abbey established a parish in Kensington, and dedicated it to St Mary. It was probably given the epithet of ‘Abbots’ because of its link to the abbey rather than the diocese of the Bishop of London. This led to a dispute with the bishop and an action followed in the consistory court of the diocese. This resulted in the patronage of the church passing to the bishop in perpetuity but rights over the surrounding land remaining with the abbey.[2] The line of vicars can be traced directly back to this foundation in 1262.

In 1370 the Norman church was rebuilt.[2]

The old St Mary Abbots Church, in 1869, shortly before it was demolished to make way for the current church

When William III established his court at Kensington Palace there followed a growth in the local population which made the medieval church too small and it was demolished at the end of the 17th century to be replaced by a late Renaissance style church. This in turn proved too small as the area urbanised in the 19th century.

Around 1860 the vicar, Archdeacon Sinclair, began a campaign to build a new church which he wanted to be really striking. The architect George Gilbert Scott was engaged and he recommended the demolition of the existing church to take advantage of the outstanding site at the road junction. The design was almost certainly influenced by Scott's earlier work on Dunblane Cathedral on which the west front's tall window and carved tympanum, is loosely based. The 278 ft (85 m) high spire is clearly influenced by that of St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol.[2]

The present church contains many fittings from the earlier churches, especially funeral monuments from the mid-17th century onwards.


The tower holds a ring of ten bells hung for change ringing. Five of these bells, the fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth of the current ring date from 1772 and were cast by Thomas Janaway. The other five, the treble, second, third, seventh and tenor were cast in 1879 by John Warner & Sons.[3]

Primary School[edit]

The church has an associated primary school in its churchyard, which was founded in 1707 as the Charity School.[4] Previous buildings for the school where designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1711, but demolished to make way for a town hall c.1878. The present buildings date from 1875, and are notable for the painted stone statues of a boy and girl by Thomas Eustace c.1715 ,[5] now on the north face of the school. The playgrounds are interspersed with the church yard.

The school maintains close connections with the church.[6][7]

Notable parishioners[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′08″N 0°11′30″W / 51.50222°N 0.19167°W / 51.50222; -0.19167