I have attended special services and concerts in St Mary Abbot’s Church in Kensington – indeed I once unknowingly sat in a pew behind Madonna and Guy Ritchie - but I have never have had the opportunity for a quiet exploration of the church, so I made the best of a little spare time while in the area.
Hidden away behind the war memorial and a flower stall, here is the parish church or perhaps the cathedral of Kensington, missed by all the shoppers rushing to Whole Foods across the road and the travellers passing by in cars, taxis and buses moving through the High Street and Church Street,
As with many historic churches, the site has been a religious site for many centuries and the current grand Gothic building, built by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott from 1872, incorporates many items from previous churches such as memorials (now numbering several hundred) and the 17th century pulpit which was a gift from King William III.
The memorials are fascinating to explore and you can let your imagination roam about the connections between different parts of the country such as Paisley in Renfrewshire and Kensington, with many sadly reminding us of the gallant deaths of officers in many wars across the globe, including links with Scottish regiments. There is also a relatively modern plaque to Christopher Ironside who designed the first decimal coinage in the UK.
Given that Kensington Palace is a short walk or drive away, there are monuments liked to the Royal family, including an angel sculpted by Princess Louise, and there is a Royal Pew and a separate door for visitors from Kensington Palace to enter in private. The stained glass are mostly by Clayton and Bell and include a window commemorating Isaac Newton’s link with the church.
Outside a few monuments remain, but otherwise the former graveyards are rare green spaces in Chelsea.