St Anne Soho - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Anne Soho

• St Anne's Church in Soho was consecrated on 21 March 1686 by Bishop Henry Compton as the Parish church of the new Parish of St Anne (known post-1945 as the Parish of St Anne with St Thomas and St Peter) which had been created out of parts of the parish of St Martin in the Fields. The church and parish still survive today, as part of the Deanery of Westminster. Parts of its churchyard around the tower and west end are now the public park of Saint Anne's Gardens, the church itself is accessed via a gate at the Shaftesbury Avenue end of Dean Street

• The parish was dedicated to St Anne because Compton had been tutor to Princess Anne before she became Queen. Construction commenced in 1677 on a plot in what was then the countryside of Soho Fields, with William Talman and/or Christopher Wren as architects. In 1699 a tuition-free parish school was founded for boys and in 1704 it started to admit girls. From 1700 the church's first organist was William Croft (composer of the ‘St Anne’ tune to O God our help in ages past).The church's tower was only completed in 1718, with the addition of a timber spire.

• The tower, however, became unstable by 1800 and, after 41 meetings of a ‘Tower Rebuilding Committee’ came no closer to solving the problem, the architect Samuel Pepys Cockrell was commissioned to design a replacement. The original tower was demolished (though the 1 ton clock bell, cast in 1691 and still in use, was retained) and the new tower's brickwork was completed by 1801.

• In a 4m deep brick chamber beneath the tower are interred the ashes of the novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, who was a long time Churchwarden of the parish and member of the St Anne's Society. • The church's choir and music, famous since its consecration, continued with Sir Joseph Barnby who served as its organist from 1871 to 1888 and introduced the first UK performance of Bach's "St John Passion”. The first religious service with music to be broadcast on the radio came from St Anne's in the 1920s.

• The whole church was burned out on the night of 24 September 1940 during the Blitz, apart from the tower, which was left derelict. St. Thomas's, Regent Street (now demolished) and the adjoining St. Anne's House were used for worship from then on. In 1945 it was proposed that the ruins should become a war memorial. By 1949 it was assumed that the church would not be re-built and so in 1953 the remains of the east wall (the only significant parts left standing) were demolished, the site deconsecrated, prepared for sale and the parish amalgamated with those of the churches of St. Thomas's, Regent Street and St. Peter's, Great Windmill Street (creating the Parish of St Anne with St Thomas and St Peter, centred on St Thomas's). The tower was used as a chapel for a time in the 1950s, partly restored in 1979 by the Soho Society and fully restored in the 1990-91 re-building of the whole church - the tower is now a Grade II listed building.


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