Our Church | Our History

St Mary’s has its origins in Christian social action. In 1865 two Hampstead businessmen, moved by the sight of starving children on street corners, opened a home for destitute boys in Regents Park Road. Services in its iron church in nearby Ainger Road proved so popular with local people that it outgrew its premises and the present brick church next to Primrose Hill itself was built. This was opened for worship on 2 July 1872.

Musically, St Mary’s enjoys a unique place in the story of Anglican worship. In 1906, this is the church where Percy Dearmer (Vicar 1901-15) worked with Ralph Vaughan Williams and Martin Shaw to compile The English Hymnal. It was in Primrose Hill that congregations first sang many well-loved hymns such as ‘He who would valiant be’, ‘In the bleak mid-winter’ and ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind’. Dearmer made St Mary’s the show-piece for liturgy according to the English Usage. Our worship continues to be full of music, colour and ceremonial.

Worship in the catholic tradition of the Church of England, good music, and a concern for children and young people continue to be hallmarks of St Mary’s.

But church is not simply about Sunday. As Christians we want to make connections between our faith and the way we live and work. In partnership with our church school, St Paul’s, we strive to reach out to local families. We have a thriving Sunday School and an imaginative youthwork programme. Our Social Inclusion Programme is a contemporary expression of what the two Victorian businessmen were seeking to do in their generation.

Above all, we want people to be fully alive as human beings, and so give glory to God.

1885-1889 Charles James Fuller
1889-1901 Albert Spencer
1901-1915 Percy Dearmer
1916-1928 Arthur Duncan-Jones
1928-1933 Hubert Harcourt
1934-1951 Anthony Hardcastle
1952-1965 George Timms
1965-1976 Howard Hollis
1976-1984 Richard Buck
1984-1998 John Ovenden
1998-2008 Robert Atwell
2009-20** Marjorie Brown

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