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At St Michael & All Angels, Shoreditch

July 30, 2015
by the gentle author

You walk through the door and it as if you walked into the mansion of Charles Foster Kane – such is the overwhelming collection of unlikely paraphernalia that you encounter when you visit St Michael & All Angel’s, Shoreditch.

Deconsecrated long ago, the handsome High Victorian Gothic church of 1865, designed by James Brooks, has been a showroom for Westland architectural salvage since 1977 and the eclectic display of statues, fireplaces and chandeliers in this setting is a breathtaking spectacle to behold. In his ‘Buildings of England,’ Sir Niklaus Pevsner wrote, “The whole is an eminently picturesque fantasy and it is a great shame that it has fallen into such shocking neglect,” yet today it has found an alternative role that proposes a strange complement to its fanciful design.

The surrealism of multiple architectural elements from different eras arranged in random combination within a disorienting labyrinth of rooms on two floors within the church is as intoxicating as any film by Jean Cocteau. You feel you are walking through chambers in the unconscious mind of some deranged architect or a netherworld of architectural keepsakes assembled by an acquisitive time-traveller.

The church and adjoining clergy house

St Michael & All Angels, Leonard St, Shoreditch, 1865

In a strange precursor of its current use, this engraving of 1865 shows the makeshift church built within the structure while it was under construction.

Westland, St Michael & All Angels’ Church, Leonard St, EC2A 4QX

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Annie S permalink
    July 30, 2015

    It’s a fascinating place to visit!
    I came across it by chance, I was unsure if it was open to the general public but I saw someone go in so I followed. They seem quite happy for people to wander round, no one bothered me – there are some amazing items for sale (slightly out of my price range!)

  2. July 30, 2015

    I don’t really like to see places of worship being given up, sad that they are no longer in use. But the church certainly makes a great place to display all those treasures. It really looks very surreal. Valerie

  3. Peter Holford permalink
    July 30, 2015

    Good to see a building of such character gaining a new lease of life with a different use.

  4. July 30, 2015

    This is wonderful, quite magical to look at even in photographs so the reality must be incredible. I wonder how old the rocking horse is? I believe that they were introduced to this country in the 1870s and I have a studio portrait of my grandmother’s brother sitting on one in that decade!


  5. July 30, 2015

    I came across Westland quite by chance too and I didn’t think it was open to the public but wandered in anyway…fabulous stuff on sale in such an unusual setting…recycled stuff in a recycled church!

  6. M D West permalink
    July 31, 2015

    The curious temporary chapel inside the incomplete church is a corrugated iron ‘tin tabernacle’ isn’t it? They were available by mail order in the late 19th C

  7. Helene Carkeek permalink
    September 27, 2020

    The poor lion looks bewildered: “Where am I? Where are all the trees? The bearded gentleman with a feathered turban looks a bit confused as well! But what a joyous confusion of lovely pieces of art and indulgence from a bygone age.

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