History of St Paul's Finchley

In 2016, St Paul’s celebrated its 130th anniversary. 

The story so far: 

1880s - how the church came to be built

In the early 1880s, the parish church of St Mary-at-Finchley was bursting at the seams because of rapid population growth, a result of Finchley Central Station opening in 1867.  So the rector of St Mary’s decided to plant a new Christian community in a neighbouring part of Finchley.

Frederick Temple

A plot of land in Long Lane was purchased for £700. Church members then raised £6,000, all that was needed to construct the building. Much of this came from small subscriptions.

On 27th March 1886 St Paul’s Finchley was dedicated by the Rt Revd Frederick Temple (1821-1902), Bishop of London, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury. 

The new church building was designed to have a tower but it was never built. The church has one bell which was bought from the parish church of Hatford in Berkshire. It is the oldest part of St Paul’s, cast in 1380 by John Langhorne, who owned a prestigious bell foundry in London.

Original Architects plan for St Paul's
Finchley

The First Vicar

Revd Samuel Mayall, the curate at St Mary-at-Finchley, was appointed as the first Vicar, beginning his ministry here in 1886. He must have liked it here, since he remained as vicar until 1927. During that time a hall and Sunday School building were built next to the church. One of the rooms in the St Paul’s Centre, which opened in 2008, is named after him – the Mayall Room.

1920, 1955 – The windows

In 1920, to commemorate the lives of those who died in the 1914-1918 war, the ‘saints in glory’ window and brass plaque were placed in the north transept. The window includes a nurse, soldier and sailor - but not an airman to represent the Royal Air Force (formed in 1918), even though nearby Hendon had been an important centre of aviation since 1908.

In 1941, on Saturday 10th May at 11.20pm, a bomb fell outside the south-east corner of the building, significantly damaging the church and halls. No one was hurt and the congregation met to worship the next day. The south-east entrance porch was wrecked, the roof and organ were badly damaged and every window except the ‘saints in glory’ window was blown out.

In June 1955, following the bomb damage, the St Paul’s window and the window depicting Jesus the Good Shepherd meeting St Peter, were dedicated. These windows continue to be used as very effective visual aids in our worship and in the workshops we run for local primary schools.

1978-1980 – Reordering the historic church

The original hall and Sunday School buildings were knocked down and a lease given to the developers of Marlex Lodge block of flats. The money raised paid for the re-ordering of the historic church. Partitions were added which cut off the side aisles to create a kitchen and small rooms in the south, and a foyer and toilets in the north. Large folding doors across the nave turned the rear of the church into a hall area. During the reordering work St Paul’s was closed for worship. The congregation met at St Luke’s Finchley in Mountfield Road.

1986 - Centenary Celebrations

In 1986, centenary celebrations were held during the week of 13th to 20th April, beginning with a special service. Donald Coggan, the retired Archbishop of Canterbury, preached and Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister and local MP, was present. The week ended with a concert by Cliff Richard. (Cliff had joined St Paul’s when he first became a Christian in the mid 1960s.)

2008 – The St Paul’s Centre

In January 2006, the sale of St Luke’s church hall was completed. The number of people worshipping at St Luke’s had gone down, not helped by the changes to the access to MountfielUnveiling of the plaqued Road. The money from the sale paid for the building of the St Paul’s Centre, which was begun in September 2006.

On 5 October 2008 the newly completed centre was dedicated by the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, Bishop of London.

The St Paul’s Centre is now used by church members for activities for children, youmg people, families and older people, on Sundays and throughout the week. It is also hired by a wide range of users – individuals, community groups, businesses and charities based in Finchley, the London Borough of Barnet and north London – all of whom find it a first-rate facility. 

2011 – 125th Anniversary ServiceSt Paul's 125th
Anniversary Picture

On Sunday 27th March, exactly 125 years to the day the historic church building was dedicated, we held a special service. Christina Baxter, Principal of St John’s College, Nottingham preached – an appropriate choice as the first vicar of St Paul’s, the Revd Samuel Mayall, was a graduate of St John’s when it was known as the London College of Divinity and based in Highbury. Former members of the church, parents and children from St Mary’s CE Primary School and community leaders joined us for the celebration.  Many community leaders were in attendance.