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The Wonders Of St Michael & All Angels

January 23, 2018
by the gentle author

Such is the overwhelming collection of unlikely paraphernalia that you encounter when you visit St Michael & All Angel’s in Shoreditch, it is as if you have walked into the mansion of Charles Foster Kane. You feel you are exploring chambers in the unconscious mind of some deranged architect or a netherworld filled with keepsakes assembled by an acquisitive time-traveller. The surrealism of multiple architectural elements from different eras arranged in random combinations within a disorienting labyrinth filling the church is as intoxicating as any film by Jean Cocteau.

In his ‘Buildings of England,’ 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 St Michael & All Angels has found an alternative role that proposes a strange complement to its fanciful design. Deconsecrated long ago, the handsome High Victorian Gothic church, designed by James Brooks in 1865, 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.

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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13 Responses leave one →
  1. Susan permalink
    January 23, 2018


  2. January 23, 2018

    What a marvelous collection of unusual objects. Valerie

  3. Leana Pooley permalink
    January 23, 2018

    Filling a redundant church up with redundant treasures for sale seems like the perfect solution.

  4. Milo permalink
    January 23, 2018

    What Susan said…

  5. Jonathan permalink
    January 23, 2018

    I rather excitedly thought you had visited my church – St Michael and all Angels in London Fields. Ours has some wonders too, albeit only built in 1961. The murals are by John Haywood, and the history can be found here:

  6. January 23, 2018

    Wondrous to behold.

  7. Malcolm permalink
    January 23, 2018

    Looks like a bizarre version of Sir John Soane’s house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
    At least the building itself has been saved and is largely intact. So many Churches have fallen into disrepair, and many have been demolished, due to shrinking congregations and a paucity of funds. I wonder if at sometime in the future all that will remain of our ecclesiastical estate are the great Cathedrals and Abbeys. How many will last as long as St. Peter-on-the-Wall at Bradwell-on-Sea? Built in the 7th century and still standing firm out on the remote and windswept Dengie peninsular on the Essex coast. The Church is never locked and is open 24 hours a day. Mind you, there’s nothing inside to steal, apart from a couple of wooden benches and I wouldn’t want to be there alone at night! Interesting fact: When St. Peters was built by St. Cedd it was actually designated a Cathedral and there is still, to this day, a Bishop of Bradwell.

  8. January 23, 2018

    You know that saying, “You had me at hello…?” Your first sentence hooked me! And I could spend hours poring over these photographs — they are delightful. It’s a good thing that I am safely away across the pond, or I am sure I would willingly get lost in there for days. Thank you so much for sharing this extraordinary place.

  9. Annie S permalink
    January 23, 2018

    That is such a wonderful place!
    I found it quite by chance a few years ago when I was passing by, I wasn’t sure if it was OK to go inside but it was fine – so many amazing items.

  10. January 23, 2018

    Incredibly beautiful. Thank you for the tour!

  11. January 24, 2018

    I agree with Leana. If churches have to be decommissioned, what more appropriate use could there be than to recycle other parts of our architectural heritage?

  12. Marcia Howard permalink
    January 24, 2018

    And a wow from me too

  13. Sarah Johnson permalink
    January 24, 2018

    I want to go there! Marvelous photos. Thanks

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