Putney, London

St. Mary's Church, Putney, London

St. Mary’s, Putney is one of the two churches that stand at either end of Putney Bridge; along with All Saints’, Fulham on the north side of the Thames.

The earliest records of St. Mary’s suggest a church here from the 13th Century. It is possible there was something here earlier, but records are hazy to say the least. Over the years the church has undergone a number of extensive rebuilds and the only large amounts remaining from the medieval period are the tower – from the mid-15th Century and restored in 1845, 1964 and 1982 and Bishop West’s Chapel which dates to the early 16th Century.

In the English Civil War the Levellers met at St. Mary’s Church where the “Putney Debates” were held in 1647. The New Model Army had their headquarters near here and the Debates were key in deciding the make up of the Commonwealth that emerged after the Civil War was finally over.

In 1836 a very substantial rebuild of the Church was undertaken. Including moving Bishop West’s Chapel from the south side of the church to the north. Almost the entirety of the body of the church was rebuilt and the tower was heavily altered.

The Church lost a great deal of its churchyard when Putney Bridge was widened around 1729 and most of the remainder in 1931-33 when the bridge was widened and elongated to its current size.

In 1973 a terrible arson attack destroyed almost everything inside the church. So great was the damage that it took nine years to rebuild and the church was reconsecrated in February 1982. The most recent addition is the new entrance to the church through the ‘Brewer Building’ (which forms a café today) which was completed in 2005.

St. Mary’s is mentioned in the work of Samuel Pepys and in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield is the place where the title character is married to Dora Spendlow.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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