History of St Michael and All Angels, Shoreditch | Look Up London

History of St Michael and All Angels, Shoreditch

Once one of the most magnificent Gothic revival churches in London, the Grade I listed St Michael and All Angels in Shoreditch is now set to become office space.

History of St Michael and All Angels, Shoreditch | Look Up London

It seems quite the juxtaposition, but there’s a lot more to the story…

History of St Michael and All Angels

Built 1863-5, the church was designed by James Brooks who built his reputation as a Gothic Revival architect with several East End churches including St Saviour, Hoxton (damaged during WWII and never rebuilt), St. Columba, Haggerston and St. Chad, Haggerston.

They were all monumental in scale, decorated with coloured stone and tiles with large timber roofs and intimidating spires.

History of St Michael and All Angels, Shoreditch | Look Up London

St Michael and All Angels could house a congregation of 1,000 and then in 1867-68 a vicarage was added, shortly joined by a school in 1870.

Image from www.layersoflondon.org

A New Life for the Church

Today most of these buildings have been demolished. Not just because of bomb damage (you can see a bomb damage map below) but also because they were in a dilapidated state and presumably unfit for purpose.

Image from www.layersoflondon.org

St Michaels survived as a church until the mid 1970s, when Lassco and Westland & Company took over the space creating an odd mix of Victorian church pomp and architectural salvage.

You can see pictures inside from 2015 in this wonderful post from Spitalfields Life.

You can see the wares spilling out into the street in this google maps image from as late as 2008.

Image from Google Maps – 2008

History of Mark Street Gardens

The area surrounding the church were transformed into Mark Street Gardens in the early 1980s.

History of St Michael and All Angels, Shoreditch | Look Up London

The site was formerly the Langbourne Buildings. They were designed in the 1860s by Sidney Waterlow, the philanthropist and social reformer, becoming the first example of his Improved Industrial Dwellings Company.

The aim was to provide the London poor with decent and well ventilated housing which had self contained toilets and washing facilities, supplied with clean water. They could house 80 families.

Demolished in 1978, you can see a rear view from that year here. From Mark Street Gardens you can still see Victoria Chambers which once stood next to Langbourne buildings.

You may also have passed other examples of Sidney Waterlow’s dwellings like the ones close to Columbia Road market.

The gardens are now looked after by Hackney Council, but the church interior is currently being renovated into an office space. 

This is a computer-generated image of the planned interior and you can have a look at the plans on the developers website here.

House of Hackney HQ

As well as the garden, one aspect that you can visit is the former Clergy House, now the headquarters of interiors brand, House of Hackney.

Step inside and rather than the traditional ‘showroom’ you feel a bit like you’re nosing around someone’s house.

Original Victorian features clash with their bold prints and dazzling patterns.

House of Hackney say it’s their way of showing there are no rules in decorating, you should simply “live with what you love”. 

I’m sure it’s not to everyone’s taste but I quite liked it and was a little reminded of the ‘more is more’ style of Sambourne House.

Even if it’s not your cup of tea, I suppose it’s quite nice – given the church’s historic links with Lasso and Westland – that an element of design and interiors continues on the site today.

I’m not sure when the work on Vertus is scheduled to be completed, but perhaps I can take a look when it’s finished and report back!

I wrote another blog post about unusual church renovations which you might also enjoy here

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1 Comment

  • Jane Burnett

    Reply

    It always seems sad to me when a church closes but that is tempered by the respectful reimagining that is offered by some firms in purchasing these sites. So much better than tearing the structure down and putting up a new build, I think. As to interior decor, it seems equally as acceptable in these historic buildings as in our own homes. Paint and wallpaper can always be changed!

    July 5, 2023 at 4:15 pm

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