On behalf of St Mary Magdalene’s Church and Paddington Development Trust, Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a Happy New Year.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your support and help during 2017, and to give you an update on the progress of the St Mary Magdalene’s project.
Fr Henry Everett, Vicar of St Mary Magdalene’s Church
Toby Gale, Project Director, PDT
2017 has been a big year for St Mary Magdalene’s Church; the most important since GE Street finished his work in 1878.
We completed detailed design work in the spring, then ran a competitive tendering process to select a building contractor. In July the PCC and the PDT Board approved the appointment of Lengard Ltd.
In the months since, St Mary Magdalene’s has become a building site: home to architects, builders, engineers, cost consultants, project managers, and conservators. After more than 10 years of preparation and planning, all is now action!
There is scaffolding everywhere, giving access to parts of the church that have not been seen up close for the best part of a century. The highlights so far are Daniel Bell’s dramatic painted ceilings high in the nave and chancel. With swabs and pots and the assorted paraphernalia of a mini chemistry set, Cliveden Conservation have been testing different cleaning methods. Beneath the dirt and the varnish we are starting to see just how bold the paintings are, and, with no lack of gold leaf, lavish. Elsewhere internal brick and stonework will be treated to a brush, a hoover, and a sort of dry-rub – ‘TLC’ provided from January with help from our growing team of conservation volunteers!
In parallel, in a big muddy hole in the ground, the foundations of our new building are taking shape. Lengard are close to completing the underpinning and the forming of the sub-structure (and the noise disturbing our very tolerant Primary School neighbours should then reduce).
In November the project patron, John Julius, Lord Norwich, and the Acting Bishop of London presided over a celebration of the project breaking ground. Bishop Pete Broadbent said a prayer of blessing, while Lord Norwich spoke of the historic social mission of the church, which was shared by its original architects and is once again reflected in the new development project.
Pupils from St Mary Magdalene Primary School presented a time capsule containing items chosen from each class at the school, such as poems, predictions, and facts about their lives in 2017, which was buried in the grounds of the new annex.
Community activity programme
Meanwhile our community activity programme has had a busy few months. During this year of works, we are working with the community on a number of projects to make textiles, films and oral histories which will be presented in the new building and the church. This is giving local people a hand in creating the new spaces, whilst at the same time providing learning and volunteering opportunities, and a chance to connect with each other.
Most recently, a group of local people have worked with artist Linda Florence to research and design tiles which will feature prominently in the new building. The results of their work are really impressive, beautifully depicting moments from the church and area’s history.
An Open Day on the 11th November at St Mary Magdalene’s Primary School had a great turn out from the local community, offering a number of architecture-inspired family learning activities. Tours ran into the church, offering visitors the rare opportunity to go up our scaffold and see the stained glass up close.
The worshipping life of St Mary Magdalene’s has continued as building work has got under way. We celebrated the 150th anniversary of the start of construction work with a great Mass in June, and then kept St Mary Magdalene’s Day the day before we handed the building over to Lengard. Since then we have enjoyed Sunday Mass in the Outer Vestry, which we have turned into a chapel (it has also been a prayer room for a Muslim employee of Lengard’s). The Vestry is very cosy, but we can just manage on a normal Sunday. The All Souls’ Day Requiem happened at Holy Trinity, Prince Consort Road, this year, and we were hugely grateful that they allowed us to “do our own thing”, so it went very well. Our big Christmas services are happening up the road at St Peter’s, which may have less atmosphere, but is full of friends.
Fundraising for the project continues, with a number of notable successes during 2017. We have received grants from: The Pilgrim Trust (£40k), Anonymous (£50k) and Power to Change (£260k). We were delighted to be named winners of the inaugural Friends Vote from the National Churches Trust which meant we were awarded a grant of £10k, in addition to the £40k already received.
The final event in the church before it closed for construction work began was a reception in June, hosted by Sir Simon Jenkins. We were treated to a stunning performance from Westminster Academy students, and we were delighted to see a large number of our donors and supporters join us for that occasion. At the close of the year we were thrilled to raise £20,000 through the Big Give – the first time we’ve participated in the scheme and we’d like to thank everyone who supported us so generously.