The Church in the 1930’s

Hogarth's "Noon" 1738 (Greek Church on left)

A brief historical note about the church in Charing Cross Road will not be out of place. Although the church of St Mary the Virgin, Charing Cross Road, which was demolished in 1934, was not of early construction, its site first bore a church in 1677, when a Greek church was built there at the expense of various notables. The church was under the jurisdiction of the Greek Bishop of Samos, who had been driven into exile by the Turks, and it was dedicated to the Virgin because of her famed grotto on the island of Samos.

A tablet from the wall of the original building was preserved in the west wall of the church demolished in 1934, and has now been removed to the Greek Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, Moscow Road. The tablet is carved in Greek with the following inscription:-

‘In the year of salvation 1677 this Temple was erected for the nation of the Greeks, the Most Serene Charles II being King, and the Royal Prince Lord James being commander of the forces, the Right Reverend Lord Henry Compton being Bishop, at the expense of the above and other Bishops and Nobles and with the concurrence of our Humility of Samos Joseph Georgeirenes, from the Island of Melos.’

Well into the eighteenth century the congregation was of very good standing, and Hogarth’s Noon (pictured to the right), published in 1738, is said to portray the church and its smartly dressed congregation on the left in stark contrast to the lower classes on the right.

The church remained Greek until 1681, when it was required for the French protestant refugees, who had been worshipping in the Savoy. After some difference of opinion as to the price to be paid, the Vestry took possession and the French duly succeeded the Greeks. From 1822 until 1849 it suffered the indignity of being used for the nonconformist variety of worship. It was but a short step from that to being used as a music hall, and when this actually threatened in 1850 the Rector of St Anne’s, Soho, purchased it. It was consecrated on the 29th of June 1850, and conveyed as a Chapel-of-ease to St Anne’s, Soho. The church was altered in 1850, and partially rebuilt in the 70’s, but the original nave survived until 1900, when it too was rebuilt. From 1850, the church had been one of the more ‘advanced’ churches in London restoring to the Church of England its Catholic inheritance, Fr Chambers being for long its Parish Priest.