Building Name

Church of St Mary Abbot Kensington

Kensington, London
Greater London, England
New build

In early 1868, the Vicar of Kensington, Archdeacon Sinclair, commissioned Sir George Gilbert Scott to produce a sketch design of the new parish church of Kensington.  Scott was probably the most famous and most sought after architect of his day.  Scott's first estimate of the cost was for £35,000, though the final figure was closer to £50,000.  The main building of the church was finished in early 1872 and consecrated on 14th May of that year.  The spire and tower were not completed until seve and a half years later, a year after Scott's death.  They cost a further £24,000.  Much of the internal finishing and the addition of the cloister was carried out by his second son, John Oldrid Scott.

St Mary Abbots, his last but one major church, represents Scott's work at its best.  Broadly based on early Decorated style, sometimes known as Geometric, it is characterised by a relatively plain interior in the main body of the church which serves to focus attention on the more elaborate chancel, altar and reredos.  The exterior elements are excellently grouped and balanced, one of Scott's great architectural skills.  With the exception of the spire, exterior elaboration is eschewed.  Instead, there is an effect of great strength and confidence, speaking silent volumes about Victorian society and its religion.  Given his constant involvement with church and cathedral restoration, it is inevitable that there are echoes of other older buildings, demonstrated by the two most dramatic exterior features.  The West front, with its tall window and excellent carved tympanum, is loosely based on Dunblane Cathedral, whilst the 278 feet high spire is clearly influenced by that of St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol.  Of Scott's other original churches, All Souls', Haley Hill, Halifax (1855-59) and his final building, St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh (1874-79) are most similar to St Mary Abbots.