St Mary's, Paddington Green, Built 1791

By the end of the eighteenth century St James's church was too small for this fashionable new suburb and a new church was built in 1791. John Plaw, the architect, is not famous but here created a very fine, innovative church, which has been claimed as the first Greek Revival church in the country.

Plaw went back to the square Greek church design, with four equal-sized porticos off it, but in Greece this would have been a dark cavern, excluding the sun. Instead, like all northern churches, this building is flooded with light. In Greece there would have been a domed ceiling decorated with frescos, or perhaps mosaics set slightly irregularly, so that the candle light would glitter fitfully from their edges. Here there is a flat ceiling; the windows are large, the whole design classical and severe.

During Victorian times the church became cluttered with funerary monuments but these have now gone. In 1970 Westway swept past engulfing much of Paddington Green and demolishing Paddington Town Hall. The church owned the freehold for this land and, with the compensation of about £100,000, restored the church.

Raymond Erith, one of the first authorities on historical restoration, with Dove Brothers as contractors, cleared away the Victorian additions and took the church back to the original. New box pews and a three decker pulpit were installed. A new floor in Portland and York Stone based on S. Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome, and a marble floor in the nave and chancel, were installed. The original communion rail and part of the font, found in the gallery, were put back. A new central chandelier more in keeping with the original design was designed and made. The whole atmosphere of the church was transformed.

This restoration, one of the last undertaken by Raymond Erith, is a fine tribute to his sensitivity and skill.

The Restored Interior, 1990


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