A church near Madame Tussauds

I HAVE PASSED IT OFTEN while travelling along London’s busy Marylebone Road and admired its elegant neoclassical portico supported by six columns with Corinthian capitals, but never entered it until today (the 7th of September 2022). I am referring to the Church of St Marylebone, consecrated in 1817. One of its predecessors, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary was erected nearby in about 1400. It stood near the River Tyburn. The name Marylebone seems to be derived from a conjunction of the words Mary and ‘burn’ (from Tyburn, which began to have a bad reputation because of the much-used gallows close to its banks). This early church was replaced by another, constructed in 1740. It survived until it was demolished in 1949.  Nearby, the present larger church, which we see today, was constructed in 1817 on what was then the New Road, a by-pass on the northern edge London, and is now Marylebone Road. Its grand portico faces north, and the high altar and the colourfully decorated apse are in the south end of the building. The church, a typical example of a Regency interior with first-floor galleries, is tall and spacious.

Charles Dicken’s son was baptised in the church. The poet Robert Browning (1812-1889) married a fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett (1806-1861) in the church in 1846. And the composer John Stainer (1840-1901) composed his oratorio “The Crucifixion” specially for this church in 1887 when he was already a fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, which is across the main road facing the church.

The Methodist Charles Wesley (1707-1788), who lived nearby, asked to be buried in what was the churchyard of the older (1740) church. Where this edifice stood is now a peaceful open space, the Garden of Rest, next to Marylebone Lane (a few feet south of Marylebone Gardens). In this small space, there is a stone obelisk mounted on a pedestal. This commemorates the life of Charles Wesley and several members of his family.

Close to Madame Tussauds and the Royal Academy of Music and neighbouring one of London’s more enjoyable shopping areas – Marylebone High Street, stands the lovely church of St Marylebone, which as I discovered today, merits a visit.

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