St MartinintheFields in London

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St Martin-in-the-Fields is an Anglican church at the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, London. Its patron is Saint Martin of Tours.


Roman era

Excavations at the site in 2006 led to the discovery of a grave dated about 410. The site is outside the city limits of Roman London (as was the usual Roman practice for burials) but is particularly interesting for being so far outside, and this is leading to a reappraisal of Westminster's importance at that time. The burial is thought by some to mark a Christian centre of that time (possibly reusing the site or building of a pagan temple).

Medieval and Tudor

The earliest extant reference to the church is from 1222, with a dispute between the Abbot of Westminster and the Bishop of London as to who had control over it. It was decided in favour of Westminster, and used by the monks of Westminster Abbey.

The church was rebuilt by Henry VIII in 1542 to avoid plague victims from the area having to pass through his Palace of Whitehall. At this time, it was literally "in the fields" in an isolated position between the cities of Westminster and London.

A number of notables were buried in this phase of the church, including Robert Boyle and Nell Gwynne.

Present church

By the reign of James I the church was becoming inadequate for the congregation, due to the great increase in population in the area. In 1606 the king granted an acre of ground on the west side of St. Martin's Lane for a new churchyard, and the church was enlarged. Later in the seventeenth century, galleries were added, and the creation of the new parishes of St Anne, Soho, and St James, Piccadilly, and the opening of a chapel in Oxenden Street relieved some of the pressure on space.

A survey of 1710 found that the walls and roof were in a state of decay. In 1 720, an act was passed for the rebuilding of the church allowing for a sum of up to £22,000, to be raised by a rate on the parishioners. A temporary church was erected partly on the churchyard and partly on ground in Lancaster Court. Advertisements were placed in the newspapers that bodies and monuments of those buried in the church or churchyard could be taken away for reinterment by relatives. this was considered too expensive, and Gibbs then produced a simpler rectilinear plan, which was accepted. The foundation stone was laid on 19 March, 1722, and the last stone of the spire was placed in position in December 1724. The total cost was £33,661 including the architect's fees. . The spire of of St Martin’s rises 192 feet above the level of the church floor. St Andrews Church, Egmore, Chennai is a copy of this church.

Various 18th-century notables were soon buried in the new church, including the émigré sculptor Roubiliac (who had settled in this area of London) and the furniture-maker Thomas Chippendale (whose workshop was in the same street as the church, St Martin's Lane), along with Jack Sheppard in the now lost adjoining churchyard.

The church also had its own almhouses and pension-charity, which was established on 21 Sep 1886. Its 19 trustees administered almshouses for women, providing them with a weekly stipend. The almshouses were built in 1818 on part of the parish burial ground in Camden Town and St Pancras and replaced ones built in 1683.

The church has a close relationship with the Royal Family, whose parish church it is, as well as with 10 Downing Street and the Admiralty.

Recent times

Because of its prominent position, St Martin-in-the-Fields is one of the most famous non-cathedral churches in London. Its ethos as the "Church of the Ever Open Door" (a title coined by Dick Sheppard, Vicar in the early 20th century when the work with homeless people was started) continues today, even though it is not possible for it literally to be the case. It is famous for its work with homeless people through The Connection at St Martin's which shares with The Vicar's Relief Fund the money raised each year by the BBC Radio 4 Appeal's Christmas appeal. The church is also known for its regular lunchtime and evening concerts: many ensembles perform there, including the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, which was co-founded by Sir Neville Marriner and John Churchill, a former Master of Music at St Martin's. There is a popular café in the crypt, where jazz concerts are held. All profits from this go to the work of the church. The crypt is also home to the London Brass Rubbing Centre, an art gallery and a book and gift shop.

In January 2006 work began on a £36-million renewal project. The project included renewing the church itself, as well as provision of facilities encompassing the church's crypt, a row of buildings to the north and some significant new underground spaces in between. The funding included a grant of £15.35 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The church and crypt reopened in the summer of 2008. As part of the public fundraising, it is possible to sponsor a pane of glass and 'give light to St Martin's'.

Twelve historic bells from St Martin-in-the-Fields are included in the peal of the Swan Bells tower in Perth, Western Australia.

List of organists

Organists include:

  • John Weldon 1714–1736
  • Joseph Kelway 1736–1781 (formerly organist of St Michael, Cornhill)
  • Benjamin Cooke 1781–1793
  • Robert Cooke 1793–1814 (son of Benjamin Cooke)
  • Thomas Forbes Gerrard Walmisley 1814–1854?
  • William Thomas Best 1852–1855?
  • Martin Shaw 1920–1924
  • Arnold Goldsborough 1924–1935
  • John Alden 1935-1938
  • Stanley Drummond Wolff 1938–1946
  • John Churchill 1949 – 1967
  • Christopher Stokes
  • Paul Stubbings
  • Nick Danks 2001–2008
  • Andrew Earis 2009 –

St Martin's school

In 1699 the church (which was controlled by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge) founded a school for poor and less fortunate boys, which later became a girls' school. The school was originally in Charing Cross Road, near the church. It was known as St Martin’s Middle Class School for Girls, latterly known as St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls. The school flourished in what was a populous, fast-growing parish. It was relocated to its present Lambeth site in 1928.

The school badge depicts the eponymous St Martin of Tours. The school's Latin motto Caritate et disciplina translates as "With love and learning".<ref name="history" /> The school is Christian but accepts girls of all faiths.

See also

  • List of churches and cathedrals of London
  • Academy of St Martin in the Fields

Notes and references

External links