St. Mary le Bone, London

The first church here was built close to Marble Arch at the Tyburn around 1200. In 1400 it was demolished and a new church – St. Mary the Virgin, by the Bourne – was built – referring to the Ty Burn stream. This would become St. Mary le Burn and eventually, St. Mary le Bone – St. Marylebone, giving its name to the whole area. This church was built a little closer to St. Mary le Bone village. Francis Bacon was married here in 1606 and Hogarth depicted its interior in A Rake’s Progress in 1735.

Oddly enough a smaller church was then built to replace this church in 1740. It was associated with Charles Wesley. Lord Byron was baptised here in 1788, Nelson’s daughter, Horatia, was also baptised here. Two well known marriages were that of Sheridan and, less successfully, the married of William Hamilton to Emma Hart – who would later famously become the mistress of Admiral Nelson.

There were plans to rebuild as early as 1770, but it was not until 1813 that work began on the new church – the one that still stands today, albeit modified. During this phase Charles Dickens’ son was baptised here and Robert Browning married Elizabeth Barrett in 1846.

Between 1882 and 1885 another rebuild was undertaken, although this did not alter the structure of the 1813 church but was more in the mode of modernisation.

A bomb hit the churchyard in World War II blowing out all the windows and embedding shrapnel in the roof. Repairs were completed by 1949 with the addition of the Browning Chapel at the back of the church to commemorate the marriage of the two poets. For some time the room contained various furnishings and mementos of the couple, but most of these have now been stolen.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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