Tradition has it that the Manor of Stoke Newington (meaning 'new town in wood') was established prior to its inclusion in the Domesday Book of 1086, where there would have probably been a simple chapel to cater for the small farming community.
By 1563 when the local population had risen to about 100, Sir William Patten, Lord of the manor, replaced the existing place of worship, a part of which can still be seen in The Old Church on the north side of Stoke Newington Church Street.
In 1852 the Rev'd Thomas Jackson proved to be very popular, with people coming from all over London to hear him preach, and so the need arose for a larger place of worship on a site facing the old one. The building cost of £17,000 was raised by voluntary subscriptions and the magnificent 13th century Gothic style church designed by the famous architect Sir George Gilbert Scott and known as the New Church is the result.
The consecration service took place on the morning of 30th June 1858 in the presence of the Bishops of London and Pennsylvania, assisted by 20 clergy. Many features revealed to the congregation included seating for 1,100, with some free places for women and children, and the sound of the new organ costing some £1,200. However, due to lack of funds the building of the steeple had to be postponed giving rise to the rhyme:
Stoke Newington is a funny place with lots of funny people,
Thomas Jackson built a church but could not build a steeple.
The spire designed by John Oldrid Scott was added in 1890 and seating increased to 1,300.
At the turn of the 20th century, along with the Rector, there were 4 curates, 120 Sunday School teachers with 1,000 scholars, 100 choristers and 140 mission visitors. Restoration work and the installation of electric lighting took place during the 1920s, and in 1935 a legacy from Sir Herbert Ormond, Mayor of Stoke Newington and a lifelong member of St Mary’s, enabled the organ to be rebuilt to a very high standard. Tragedy struck when bombs fell on both churches during the London blitz of October 1940. The Old Church was soon repaired and services, including weddings, were held there from Christmas of that year.
Extensive repairs to the Old Church were completed by 1953 and in 1957 the New Church was re-dedicated after considerable restoration work, including the installation of a new organ and stained glass windows. In 1960 a window of unusual design was placed in the North Transept commemorating all who have worshipped here over the ages.
The buildings as they stand today are used in many different ways both for worship and in support of the local community and the most vulnerable in our great city. Our aim as a church is to show the same loving hospitality to everybody that we receive from God. Whoever you are, you are welcome!
To find out more of what's been happening at St Mary's see our News page or take a look at What's On.