St Mary Abbots, Kensington
Above: The impressive interior, looking towards the altar.
The church at Kensington was the original parish church. It was founded in the 12th century. A new church was built in 1370, named from its connection with Abingdon Abbey, in Oxfordshire. The See of Abingdon appointed the vicars of St Mary Abbots. The church was rebuilt in 1696, except for the tower.
The present church was built 1868-72, to designs of George Gilbert Scott. It has some unusual features, one of which is the entrance from the street to the nave which is via a cloister that was built 1889-93, designed by John Oldrid Scott, the son of George Gilbert Scott. Within the church is the pulpit which dates from 1697 and remains from the former church.
This church has the tallest spire in London – rising to 250 feet (76 m). It certainly made a statement in Victorian London that Kensington was an important village, lived in by wealthy residents. Even today, with many buildings being much taller than in the 19th century, to catch sight of the spire leaves the visitor impressed with its height.
Being a Victorian building, the windows have the characteristic colourful stained glass. Entering on a sunny day presents the visitor with an overload of rich colours. The church, and its railings, are listed Grade II* on the National Heritage List for England.
The church stands at the corner of Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street. This is a busy location and for some peace away from the traffic, it is recommended to walk around the outside of the church to the small churchyard. In fact, Kensington Church Walk and Holland Street nearby are both well worth exploring.
Attached to the church is a church school with the same name. The school buildings were designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1711 but demolished in the 1870s to make way for a town hall nearby. The present buildings date from 1875 and are notable for the painted stone statues by Thomas Eustace of a boy and girl, dating from about 1715, now on the north face of the school. The school playgrounds are close to the churchyard. The school maintains close links with the Church of England.