St Mary Whitechapel - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Mary Whitechapel

• The St Mary Matfelon church, popularly known as St Mary Whitechapel, was situated on Whitechapel Road.

• For over 600 years a Christian church stood on the site of Adler Street, White Church Lane and Whitechapel High Street, London E1.

• The original church known as the Whitechapel Church, St Mary Matfelon was the second oldest church in Stepney after St Dunstan's Church. It was created as a chapel-of-ease for the local area and was built in the 14th century in 1329.

• In 1673, the parish of Stepney was divided into nine separate parishes, one of them being the newly formed parish of St. Mary's, Whitechapel. A third church was built on the site in the 19th century; it was opened and re-consecrated on 2 February 1877. The church was beset by tragedy throughout its later existence. Three years after it had been opened on the 26th of August 1880, it was destroyed by a fire which left only its tower, vestry and church rooms intact.

• It was rebuilt and opened once more on the first of December 1882, this time with a capacity for 1600 worshippers and included an external pulpit for sermons.

• On the 29th of December 1940, enemy fire raid destroyed the Church. It was left in disrepair after this till it was finally demolished in 1952.The site of the church now is now occupied by a public park called Altab Ali Park, an outline of the footprint of the church is now all that remains.

• Whitewash made of lime and chalk was used as paint on the outside of the original church in the Middle Ages which gave it a bright white finish, prompting the locals to call it the 'white chapel'. The church's prominent position on the westerly junction of Whitechapel Road made it a landmark of the area and eventually became the name of the area.

• The following description of St Mary's church appeared in the book London and Its Environs in the 19th Century by Thomas Shepherd and James Elmes published in June 1929 : This church is of some antiquity, as appears by Hugh de Fulbourn being rector thereof in the year 1329.

• The name St. Mary Matfelon has given birth to many conjectures respecting its signification, but which is probably derived from the Hebrew word Matfel, which signifies both a woman lately delivered of a son, and a woman carrying her infant son; either of which significations is applicable to the Virgin Mary.


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