Just under 150 years ago a new church opened in Hounslow to serve the growing population. This is St Stephen’s Church, but if you look at it carefully, you might notice that the tower seems a bit out of place, and that’s because it was added 60 years after the church opened.

The church owes its existence to the expanding local population, particularly from the early 1800s onwards. Only the Holy Trinity Church, which dates from 1721, could cater to the population. In 1856, a decision was taken that more space was needed, and Holy Trinity was enlarged . Then between 1873-74, needing more still space, St Paul’s church was built on Bath Road in Heston.

This church, St Stephen’s, started as a temporary “tin tabernacle” that opened in July 1872 on Whitton Road. The congregation raised money for a permanent building, and within three years, the iron church was full and unable to cope with the growing population.

In 1875, Col Gostling-Murray and his son, owners of Whitton Park, offered the church a plot of land for free. Mrs Nayor then donated £2,000 on condition that the church building be erected without delay. A number of architects competed to design the church, the winner being Messrs Habershon and Pite, who had also designed the nearby St Paul’s Church in Heston.

The foundation stone was laid on 9th November 1875.

The church was due to cost £4,215 – so Mrs Nayor’s donation was expected to cover nearly half the cost of the building. In fact, the costs soared to around £4,525 by the time they had finished — and that was without the tower. It also meant the church opened while still in debt as the area was a poor one and struggled to raise the rest of the money needed.

The church was consecrated on Tuesday 15th August 1876.

A postcard of the church from before the tower was added

The church was designed in the Gothic style, with a central aisle and two side aisles, two transepts, a baptistry and a chancel. The roof is of open wood supported by clerestory windows surrounded by polychromatic brick in red and white. The altar’s stained glass windows says “Presented by Colonel Murray to the Glory of God, and memory of Lydia and Maria Gostling, 1876”

The original organ from the old tin tabernacle was bought to this church. I’m not certain if it’s the same organ, but there was a fundraising campaign underway in 1943 for the Organ Appeal – and I’d expect that was for a new organ, not a repair.

When consecrated, the church lacked a tower, but in 1918, a donation of £2,000 was made to build one. However, as that only covered half the expected cost, it wasn’t until 1935 that they could start building work. That’s why you have a noticeably 1930s art deco-inspired church tower bolted onto a Victorian Gothic church.

Unusually for an Anglican church, it’s open most days if you want to pop in for a look — usually between 10am and 3pm.

Oh, and if you’re the two chaps who are spending this year visiting important buildings in each London borough, and happened to visit the church the week before I did, the lady you spoke to says hello.

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One comment
  1. Fr David Cloake says:

    This is a great article. I was its parish priest until 2023 and I am delighted that our initiative to keep the church open during the day allowed you access. The building is great, the history fascinating but, more importantly, the people are wonderful.

    Fr David (now of St Mary Teddington, also open to visit)

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