The construction of St Mary Magdalene’s Church began in 1867 and was completed over the next eleven years.
In the mid-nineteenth-century, the large scale development of the Westbourne Green area meant a church was needed to serve a growing but impoverished population.
The construction of the church was motivated by social improvement as much as a spiritual mission and led by the church’s founder and first vicar Fr Richard Temple West working with the building’s architect, George Edmund Street.
The two men were friends and very familiar with the Church of All Saint’s Margaret Street, precursor and influential precedent to its sister Church of St Mary Magdalene. Street and Temple West were also members of the Ecclesiological Society, a group that studied and advocated a return to a medieval style of church building and interior design.
A development of the Oxford or Tractarian Movement which encouraged an Anglo-Catholic style of Christian worship, the design of St Mary Magdalene’s Church was planned on such principles and it became the first centre of Anglo-Catholicism in Paddington.
Westbourne Green survived the bombings of World War II remarkably unscathed. Apart from a single direct hit to a group of houses south west of the church that were totally destroyed, no other damage was done. However, the area’s social problems continued.
In 1957 the London County Council transformed Westbourne Green in one of the single largest development operations in the history of Paddington. Buying 266 properties from the Church Commissioners and 206 from the Paddington Borough Council, the LCC proceeded to demolish the majority of the mid-nineteenth-century housing stock.
Along with the houses, nearly all of the streets were completely lost.
The church, however, was left untouched; an island in the centre of a new estate.