PRESS RELEASE: 30/11/2018


The topping out of the new Heritage and Community Wing at St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Paddington was this week celebrated in a traditional ceremony.

Designed by award-winning Dow Jones Architects the new building is an ambitious 21st century addition to one of the country’s finest Victorian churches. Builders, residents, the architect and the vicar joined with representatives from the neighbouring St Mary Magdalene’s Primary School to mark the structure reaching its full height. In a builders’ ritual with origins in Viking times the building was blessed with prayer and a splash of beer; Rich Young, the Contract Manager, recited a poem; and a tree was hoisted to the highest point.

Constructed by Lengard Ltd, the community wing is part of a major £7m redevelopment project at St Mary Magdalene’s supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Westminster Council, and other generous donors and grant-givers. Funding is still needed, and as part of the Big Give Christmas Challenge the local community is this week doing its bit to raise money for arts and cultural activities in the new wing. If donations reach £20,000 by noon on Tuesday 4 December the amount will be doubled, with another £20,000 from the Childhood Trust.

Lucy Foster, Community Programme Manager at Paddington Development Trust said:

“Families in the tower blocks around St Mary Mags fear their children being drawn into gang culture. This is our big chance to be able to offer local children and young people a way in to another world, opening their minds to new experiences and opportunities, all within a stunning architectural environment.”

The new building complements the quality of materials and craftsmanship in the church and will be clad with faience, reflecting the decorative flair inside the church. Due to be completed in spring 2019, it will provide public facilities including a café opening onto the canal-side, and an education room, as well as improved access and services to the church. 

Biba Dow of Dow Jones Architects, said:

“It has been wonderful to mark this moment during construction; this project is the result of much collaboration between many people to make a building which will make a real difference to the lives of local residents. For a small building, there have been many challenges, from designing a building which responds to the very characterful architecture of the church, to constructing in such a confined site, and it is very exciting to see the new building take shape. "

Whilst remaining a place of worship, St Mary Magdalene’s will be a new venue in Paddington for heritage, arts and community. It will be managed by Paddington Development Trust.

Those seeking more information, or wishing to donate to the project, can visit


Notes to editors:

St Mary Magdalene’s Church: 10 minutes’ walk from Paddington Station, beside the Grand Union Canal, St Mary Magdalene’s Church is one of the finest neo-Gothic churches in the country. Grade 1 Listed, it was built in the 1860s and 70s by the great Victorian architect G E Street, who orchestrated the very best artists and craftsmen of the day to produce a masterwork combining architecture, sculpture, stained glass, and arguably the most remarkable painted ceiling in an English parish church. From the mid-20th century the building fell into decline and disrepair; for many years it has been classified as ‘at risk’ by Historic England. 

Paddington Development Trust: PDT is a secular community-led ‘anchor’ organisation; its mission is to facilitate community control in some of the most severely deprived wards in London. As well as managing the St Mary Magdalene’s project it operates an Employment Team, a Learning and Skills Campus, and a Community Health Champions programme; and facilitates access to a wide choice of volunteering and career skills training.

The St Mary Magdalene’s project: Over the last decade the church has developed a partnership with a secular local charity, Paddington Development Trust and today, after years of planning, an ambitious project is being put into effect. This has three aims: to establish St Mary Magdalene’s as a new destination for arts and culture; to keep the church open as a living place of worship; and, reprising its original mission, to help address the deprivation of the immediate community, which is still one of London’s poorest. The project aims to lift the local area, physically and psychologically. At the heart of this is the idea of bringing together different communities, bridging some of the parallel worlds of 21st century London. 

The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2018 is the UK’s largest match funding campaign. PDT’s St Mary Magdalene’s Project has been selected to participate. Our target is £20,000; providing we reach this amount it will be matched with another £20,000 from the Childhood Trust and a very generous anonymous donor. Funds are being rasied for a fun and enriching programme of arts and cultural activities for local young people and families living in North Paddington, building confidence, connecting them with new opportunities, and strengthening ties between different ethnic and cultural groups. To qualify donations should be made online through the Big Give:

About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery

The project’s funders include: the Heritage Lottery Fund, the City of Westminster, Power to Change, Dangoor Education, John Lyon’s Charity, City Bridge Trust, Allchurches Trust, the National Churches Trust, Coles-Medlock Foundation,  the Pilgrim Trust, the War Memorial Trust, The Beatrice Laing Trust, The Andrew Lloyd Weber Foundation, Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement, the John Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, the Welton Foundation, the Tudor Trust, Arts Council England, The Sackler Trust and generous private donors.

For more information please contact Toby Gale: [email protected]; 07941 795 909

Photographs courtesy of Cheryl Prax 

Toby Gale

Project Director, Paddington’s Living Heritage at St Mary Magdalene’s