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History of St. Paul's

Origin of Clapham

The village of Clapham is very old, much older than the Domesday Book, (1086). On the site of the present St Paul’s Church, (1815), was an earlier one probably originally built in the 12th century and probably dedicated to the Holy Trinity . The village was established on higher ground above the frequently flooded Battersea Marshes, and the ancient roadway running from London Bridge down to Kingston. We know the position of the old manor house, which was nearby, of which there are good pictures, demolished 1837, and the nearby street, Turret Grove commemorates the turret which was a feature of that house.

Former Church

We have no good drawings of the former church, which came under the influential Augustinian Abbey of Merton who appointed the priests up until the Reformation, (1538). Thomas Becket, who became Archbishop of Canterbury, and was famously murdered in his own Cathedral, (1170), was trained at Merton. After his Canonisation, 1173, Canterbury became a great centre for pilgrims, and Holy Trinity, Clapham was on a pilgrimage route. We do know the names of almost all the priests who served in the old church, and most of their dates.

The many unhealthy aspects of living in London in the 17th and 18th centuries led to wealthy families building houses around the much healthier Clapham Common, which moved the focus of village life away from the old village, and led to the need for a new church to be built, which happened in 1776, and the name of the old church went to the new one, and two thirds, all but the North aisle, of the old church, was demolished, and this remaining third was used as a chapel for Sunday School and burial services.

Present Church

With the population forever increasing, the need arose for a second church in Clapham, and so the new Holy Trinity built this in a form which almost exactly matched itself, a plain rectangular building with back and side galleries, but on a slightly smaller scale. The architect was Christopher Edmonds, and it was well built, and the first service was held on 24th September 1815.

In 1879, the church was extended, by Blomfield; in 1928 the side galleries were removed; and in 1970 the church was reduced to its original size and the Eastern end became a church hall.


There are a number from the old church, notably five fine 17th life-size memorials to members of the Atkins family, the parents and their children, (he was Lord of the Manor), in the Lady Chapel, and in the main church the portrait medallion to William Hewer, who was Samuel Pepys’s understudy in the Navy Office, and with whom Pepys came to live in his last years, and also a small brass plate dated 1401 to William Tableer.

Amongst other memorials dated after 1815 is one to John Hatchard, the Picadilly bookseller, and another by Sir Francis Chantry to John Broadley.

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