The Church in the 1930’s

Cornerstone from St Mary's, Charing Cross
Cornerstone from St Mary's, Charing Cross

It suffered, however, from two things; the apathy of the terribly profligate classes that lived around it in the notorious Seven Dials area, men and women seemingly unresponsive even to heroic sanctity; and also it suffered because it was mid-way between the two popular churches of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, [where the Priests, especially the saintly Fr Mackonochie, were being persecuted by the protestants for the practice of the Faith] and the Margaret Street Chapel, later to be known the world over as All Saints, Margaret Street. On the other hand, there is a lasting remembrance of the old church in that it figures as part of the background in Hogarth’s print ‘Noon’. In this time the portion of the street where the church stood was called Hog Lane, later to be renamed Crown Street, which vanished when Charing Cross Road was widened.

To return to Kenton and 1933, in that year Fr Johnson wrote to his parishioners reminding them of the changes that had taken place since Bishop Perrin dedicated St Leonard’s. Apart from the houses in Kenton Gardens, in 1927 there had been no houses near the church and the congregation who had approached the church from the bridge had walked in summer with hay fields on either side of them, and mushrooms had been gathered where Hillbury Avenue now runs.

By 1933, the fields were covered with houses and the small population of 1927 had grown to 20,000. As if to symbolise this growth, the following year a piece of masonry found its way to Kenton, to be saved up against the day of the founding of the permanent church – it was the corner stone of the new nave of 1900 from St Mary’s, Charing Cross Road, which had been laid in place, as its inscription says, by T.F.Blackwell, J.P., on the June 11th, 1900. It now reposes in St Mary’s, Kenton, near the image of Our Lady of Victories, as a sign of the continuity between the two churches, one giving up its life that another might begin and flourish aided by the merits and prayers of her to whom they were and are dedicated.