St Mary Abbots Parish Church, Kensington

In the heart of Kensington lies a fascinating example of neo-Gothic architecture from the renowned architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, known to most for his iconic work on the Midland Grand Hotel and St.Pancras railway station (more on that in a later post).

St Mary Abbots occupies a spot in between Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street, where a parish has resided in one form or another since 1262. Though the current building was completed in 1872 it has managed to keep quite a few hallmarks from previous incarnations, including five ringing bells dating back to 1772. This church is most unique in London for having the tallest church spire in the capital.

St Mary Abbots is also well known for having a primary school on its premises since 1771, with the current school built in 1875.

Illustrious parishioners throughout the years have included: Beatrix Potter, Sir Issac Newton, William Wilberforce, William Thackeray, and more recently, PD James, MP Michael Gove and former Prime Minister David Cameron.

London churches and cathedrals have always held a special fascination for me, ever since I ascended the steps of Wren’s masterpiece St Paul’s as a small boy with my mother.

To stand in any building which has witnessed so many of life’s seminal life moments (from christenings to marriages and funerals) would leave the most stoic of individuals with a poignant sense of place.

No matter the size and splendour of any you might visit, there is always something of interest to discover. Unlike museums they are rarely crowded and are generally free to enter.

Taking the time to wander around St Mary Abbots in particular yields a myriad of wonders; from the impressive archway entrance, to the intricate carving of the oak panel doors and stone figurines, to the many and varied marble plaques commemorating members of the congregation who have long since passed on, some only having had very short lives.

My focus of my visit here however is the wondrous stained glass windows. St Mary Abbotts boasts some of the best I have encountered and are in remarkable condition given their age. How something so simple can have such a mesmerizing effect on oneself purely with aid of natural light has always fascinated me.

Dating back to the 12th century, stained glass is the process where by pieces of glass are coloured and painted and then connected together in a lead frame structure to form a window. Some depict individual stories whilst others are a collective, with most having an obvious biblical theme.

Imagine what it must have been like to see one for the first time all those years ago? It was probably akin to watching your first tv show, movie at the cinema, or today’s 3-D or HD experience.

I highly recommend taking a trip to visit this wonderful church, which I’m sure many are aware of given its location, but perhaps few have had the opportunity to explore inside.

To find out more about St Mary Abbots click here

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