St Anne's Church, Soho

Coordinates: 51°30′45″N 0°07′56″W / 51.5124°N 0.1323°W / 51.5124; -0.1323
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St Anne's Church, Soho
The tower and west end of St. Anne's Church.
LocationSoho, London
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationChurch of England
DedicationSaint Anne
Architect(s)William Talman and/or Christopher Wren
Years built1677–1686
ArchdeaconryCharing Cross
DeaneryWestminster St Margaret
ParishSt Anne with St Thomas and St Peter, Soho
Sketch of St Anne's Church, Soho by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Saint Anne's Church serves in the Church of England the Soho section of London. It was consecrated on 21 March 1686 by Bishop Henry Compton as the parish church of the new civil and ecclesiastical parish of St Anne, created from part of the parish of St Martin in the Fields. The church is under the Deanery of Westminster (St Margaret) in the Diocese of London.

Parts of its churchyard around its west including tower are now the public park of St Anne's Gardens, accessed from the Shaftesbury Avenue end of Wardour Street. The church is accessed via a gate at that end of Dean Street.

The parish, having spawned new churches to Saints Thomas and Peter in the era of compulsory church attendance, reconsolidated on Saint Anne's in 1945.



Creation of St. Anne's Parish, Westminster Act 1678
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act for making Part of the Parish of St. Martin's in the Feilds a new Parish, to be called The Parish of St. Anne within the Liberty of Westminster.
Citation30 Cha. 2. c. 16
Royal assent15 July 1678
Other legislation
Repealed bySaint Anne, Soho Act 1965
Status: Repealed
St. Anne's Parish, Westminster Act 1685
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to enable the Inhabitants of the Parish of St. Anne, within the Liberty of Westm. to raise Money, to build a Church, to be a Parish Church there.
Citation1 Ja. 2. c. 1
Royal assent2 July 1685
Other legislation
Repealed bySaint Anne, Soho Act 1965
Status: Repealed

The parish was dedicated to Saint Anne because Compton had been tutor to Princess Anne before she became Queen. Construction commenced in 1677 on a plot in what was then the countryside of Soho Fields, with William Talman and/or Christopher Wren as architect(s). The church was designed as an 80 feet (24 m) long and 64 feet (20 m) wide basilican church, with a 70 feet (21 m) high west end tower.

In 1699 a tuition-free parish school was founded for boys and in 1704 it started to admit girls. The church received an organ in 1699 from the Dowager-Queen's Chapel in St James's Palace[1] and from 1700 the church's first organist was William Croft (composer of the "Saint Anne" tune to O God, Our Help in Ages Past). That organ (which was by Father Bernard Smith) was removed in 1798 and installed in St Michael Paternoster Royal.[2] The church's tower was only completed in 1718, with the addition of a timber spire by local carpenter John Meard. Edmund Andros was buried in the church's churchyard in 1714 as was the actress Hester Davenport in 1717, while in 1724/5 the church saw the marriage of Edward Harley, 3rd Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, and in 1743 Prince William Henry (younger brother of George III) was baptised here. The actress and dancer Arabella Menage was baptised here in 1782.[3]


The tower, however, became unstable by 1800 and, after 41 meetings of a "Tower Rebuilding Committee" came no closer to solving the problem, the architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell was commissioned to design a replacement. The original tower was demolished (though the 1 ton clock bell, cast in 1691 and still in use, was retained) and the new tower's brickwork was completed by 1801, its bell chamber's Portland stonework by March 1803, and its copper cupola by May 1803. The new tower's ground floor room became the parish's vestry room, and later (in the 20th century) a robing room for the clergy, and in the 14 feet (4.3 m) deep brick chamber beneath it are interred the ashes of the novelist Dorothy L Sayers, who was a longtime Churchwarden of the parish and member of the St. Anne's Society. 19th century burials in the churchyard included David Williams (1816) and William Hazlitt (1830). Also placed in the crypt was the body of Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford in 1804.

The church's choir and musical, famous since its consecration, continued with Sir Joseph Barnby (later Precentor of Eton), who served as its organist from 1871 to 1888 and introduced the first UK performance of Bach's "Saint John Passion", and with royal command performances (in 1886 for Queen Victoria at Windsor, singing Louis Spohr's "Last Judgement"; and later, at Buckingham Palace, for Queen Alexandra). The first religious service with music broadcast by radio came from this church in the 1920s.


The whole church was left burned out on the night of 24 September 1940 during the Blitz, apart from the tower, which was left derelict. St Thomas's Regent Street (now demolished) and the adjoining Saint Anne's House in the "Upper Room" (now known as the "Allen Room") were used for worship from then on. Though Jacques Groag in 1945 proposed keeping the ruins as a war memorial, it was by 1949 assumed that the church would not be rebuilt, so in 1953 the remains of the east wall (the only significant parts left standing) were demolished, the site deconsecrated and prepared for sale, and the parish amalgamated with those of the churches of St Thomas's in Regent Street and St Peter's in Great Windmill Street (creating the Parish of St Anne with St Thomas and St Peter, centred on St Thomas's).

Saint Anne, Soho Act 1965
Act of Parliament
Citation1965 c. v
Royal assent2 June 1965
Other legislation
  • Creation of St. Anne's Parish, Westminster Act 1678 30 Cha. 2. c. 16
  • St. Anne's Parish, Westminster Act 1685 1 Ja. 2. c. 1
  • Parish Church of St. Anne, Westminster Act 1802 42 Geo. 3. c. lxxii
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the St. Anne, Soho Act 1965 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from

The tower was used as a chapel for a time in the 1950s, partly restored in 1979 by the Soho Society, and fully restored in the 1990–91 rebuilding of the whole church – the tower is now a Grade II* listed building.[4] That reconstruction had been the result of London County Council's policy to keep Soho as a residential area, was facilitated by a new private act of parliament in 1965[5] allowing the site to be cleared and began in earnest with a foundation stone laid by Princess Anne on 12 March 1990. The new complex was completed in time for an opening and rededication on St Anne's Day, 26 July 1991. The new church and its associated complex is not per se a reconstruction of the old and can be varied from a large to a small space. It is set within a community centre and is a community focus such as for grief surrounding the 1999 Admiral Duncan pub bombing.

Despite the lack of a building at that time, from 1941 to 1958 the St. Anne Society under Father Patrick McLaughlin encouraged links between the literary world and the Church of England, with members such as Fr Gilbert Shaw, J. C. Winnington-Ingram, Charles Williams, Agatha Christie, T. S. Eliot, Fr Max Petitpierre, Dom Gregory Dix, Arnold Bennett, C. S. Lewis and the churchwarden Rose Macaulay. Continuing the work of the church's 18th and 19th century philanthropic rectors, in the 20th and 21st centuries the "Vestry of St Anne's" (now called the Parochial Church Council) has been active in social work with London's poor and homeless (Kenneth Leech founded the charity Centrepoint in St. Anne's House's basement in December 1969 whilst he was assistant priest at St Anne's and it remains based at the church). The Church is currently thriving as a church community and as venue for many local community and charitable events and meetings; it also houses the Soho Society, the archives of MoSoho (the Museum of Soho) and (from June 2016) anti-homophobic bullying charity Diversity Role Models. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the rebuilding of the church a redesigned entrance on Dean Street was unrevealed on 8 December 2016.

The new entrance was designed by students Lina Viluma and Sherief al Rifa’i, who were chosen as a result of a competition to redesign the entrance of Saint Anne's. The judges of the President's Award for alterations to a church building in the 2017 Church Architecture Awards said that "The design has a strong idea but has been carefully refined employing subtle geometries in the ceiling and joinery. These elements have been combined with a striking lighting scheme to make a dynamic and inviting entrance to the church."[6]

Rectors of St Anne's Church, Soho[edit]

  • 1686–1704† John Hearne
  • 1704–1750† John Pelling
  • 1750–1766† Samuel Squire[7] (as Dean of Bristol from 1760, Bishop of St David's from 1761)
  • 1766–1778 Richard Hind
  • 1778–1781† Robert Richardson[8]
  • 1781–1806† Stephen Eaton (as Archdeacon of Middlesex)
  • 1806–1845† Roderick MacLeod
  • 1846–1891 Nugent Wade[9]
  • 1891–1914 John Henry Cardwell[10]
  • 1914–1929† George Clement Wilton[11]
  • 1930–1933 Basil Bourchier[12] (resigned after mountaineering accident[13] or due to scandal[14])
  • ——
  • 1953–1962 Patrick McLaughlin
  • 1963–1975 John Frear Hester[15]
  • 1978–1984 Michael Barnabas St Leger Hurst-Bannister[16]
  • 1985–1998 Frederick Crichton Stevens[17]
  • 1998–2007 Clare Marguerite Herbert[18]
  • 2007–2011 David Samuel Gilmore (sacked for unbecoming conduct)[19]
  • 2011–2013 William Mungo Jacob[20]
  • 2013– Richard Simon Fildes Buckley[21]

Rector died in post

See also[edit]


  1. ^ St. Anne's Church | British History Online
  2. ^ "National Pipe Organ Register: C00906". Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  3. ^ Baptism of Arabella Menage (1782) England, Pallot's Baptism Index, 1780-1837, (subscription required)
  4. ^ Historic England. "Tower of St Anne's Church, Soho (1357340)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  5. ^ "St. Anne, Soho Act 1965".
  6. ^ "A New look for Dean St". St Anne's, Soho. 20 September 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Squire, Samuel (SKR730S)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  8. ^ "Richardson, Robert (RCRT745R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  9. ^ Foster, Joseph. "Wade, Nugent" . Alumni Oxonienses  – via Wikisource.
  10. ^ "Cardwell, John Henry (CRDL861JH)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  11. ^ "Wilton, George Clement (WLTN886GC)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  12. ^ "Bourchier, Basil Graham (BRCR899BG)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  13. ^ "His Own Funeral Sermon". Brisbane Telegraph. 4 December 1933. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  14. ^ Walker, Alan (2016). "Chapter 8: Soho again and death". A Totally Preposterous Parson: Evelyn Waugh and Basil Bourchier. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  15. ^ "Canon John Hester". The Guardian. 10 January 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  16. ^ "Crockford's: The Revd Michael Barnabas St Leger Hurst-Bannister". Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  17. ^ "Crockford's: The Revd Frederick Crichton Stevens". Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  18. ^ "Crockford's: The Revd Clare Marguerite Herbert". Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  19. ^ "Gay priest sacked for 'lurid' conduct". London Evening Standard. 10 January 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  20. ^ "Crockford's: The Ven William Mungo Jacob". Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  21. ^ "Crockford's: The Revd Richard Simon Fildes Buckley". Retrieved 21 January 2021.

External links[edit]

51°30′45″N 0°07′56″W / 51.5124°N 0.1323°W / 51.5124; -0.1323