This is a 200-year-old church next to Wandsworth Road, but it is only the latest building on a site that’s had a church for at least 800 years.
Originally known as St Mary’s Church Clapham, there’s been a church here since the 12th century, at least. Following the reformation, in a fit of anit-papist action, it dropped its saintly name and was renamed Trinity Church, possibly associated with it becoming a significant graveyard for parliamentary soldiers killed in the English Civil Wars.
However, as the area’s population growth exceeded the church’s capacity, most of it was demolished in 1774 when a replacement larger church was built on Clapham Common, leaving just the north aisle intact as a space for burial services.
That didn’t prove enough either, and just 50 years later, a new church was built on the site of the old one, and that opened in 1815. That is the church that’s still standing here today.
Originally a chapel of ease for Holy Trinity Clapham, it was assigned a separate Ecclesiastical District in 1861, and is now St Paul’s Clapham.
In some ways, it’s a very simple two-story brick building, quite austere around the sides, but around the front, there’s a simple entrance porch with some nice stone detailing around the edges and the window frames.
If you hadn’t just walked through a churchyard, it would almost be easy to suspect it’s a municipal building of the era, as it lacks the other telltale sign of Christianity – a steeple. The simple pitched roof is completely unadorned.
It used to have a tiny steeple, but the church was enlarged in 1875, and the steeple reduced further to a simple bell frame. And then, a bomb hit the church during WWII, and it seems that they did away with the roof adornment entirely in 1970, probably when the interior was rearranged.
The church’s interior is as simple as the exterior, with a plain appearance of cream and eggshell blues dominating and really only broken by the dark wood pews.
The interior of the church looks a lot smaller than it should from the outside because in 1970, the extension was blocked off with a new wall, and that became the church hall, leaving the interior back to the same size it was when first built in 1815.
I also got confused momentarily by the sign outside to the Church Hall, until I realised it was one way for the church and the other for the hall. Whoops.
Yes, I visited on a very hot day, and the cool interior was a relief.
Outside, there’s a typical array of gravestones, but was the stonemason drunk one day?
It’s a short walk from 575 Wandsworth Road – a house that’s worth a visit if you’ve never been before.