City of Westminster, London

St. Margaret's Church, City of Westminster, London

The origins of St. Margaret’s Church, standing sandwiched between Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, dates to the late 11th Century. After Westminster Abbey was given to the Benedictines by Edward the Confessor the Monks were continuously disturbed by the local populace coming to mass in the Abbey and so they built another church, right next door, dedicated to St. Margaret of Antioch for specifically parish use.

From that time until the Dissolution of Wesminster Abbey in 1540 the two churches existed alongside each other.

In 1189 Pope Clement III gave a grant to the Abbey that St. Margaret’s was outside the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London – and further in 1222 it was declared that the church was also outside the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury – a unique status in England.

During the 14th Century the church was rebuilt in Romanesque style and then again in the 15th Century in Perpendicular style. The church had fallen into such disrepair that Robert Stowell was employed to almost entirely rebuild from 1482. The church was reconsecrated in 1523 and has remained more or less the same since, despite 18th, 19th and 20th Century restorations.

Elizabeth I re-founded Westmisnter Abbey as a collegiate church in 1560 and she maintained the Abbey and Church’s exemption from Episcopal authority as a “royal peculiar”. St. Margaret’s finally became part of the Diocese of London in 1840.

By the 1970s, however, the parish of St. Margaret’s had dwindled to only a few hundred people and so it was disbanded and the church became property of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster once again – bringing history around in a massive circle.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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