St. Mary's Church, alongside All Saints' Church on Putney Common, is one of the two prominent religious landmarks in the Parish of Putney. Nestled within the Wandsworth Deanery, the Kingston Episcopal Area, and the Diocese of Southwark, this parish boasts a rich history and vibrant community life, serving approximately 20,000 residents.
The Parish of Putney stretches from East Putney Station in the east to Beverley Brook in the west, with the River Thames marking its northern boundary and Tibbett's Corner to the south. It encompasses a diverse range of neighborhoods and is a thriving hub of activity.
The origins of the parish's religious presence can be traced back to the early 13th century, with the first mention of a church in Putney appearing in records from 1292. The Register of Robert Winchelsea, Archbishop of Canterbury, further solidifies this historical presence, recording an ordination that took place within the parish in 1302. While the exact date of the church's establishment remains uncertain, its significance in the community is undeniable.
Historically, the ancient parish of Putney covered a vast area, spanning from the banks of the Thames in the north to Tibbett's Corner on Putney Heath in the south. Its western boundary began at Beverley Brook, while its eastern counterpart extended to Deodar Road. Over the years, the parish underwent changes as new parishes emerged, including Roehampton in 1845 and Putney Park in 1932, reducing its size.
The spiritual and administrative jurisdiction of the parish has also shifted. Putney was originally under the purview of the See of Canterbury, with the Archbishop holding the title of Lord of the Manor. However, in 1846, it transferred to the See of London, then to Rochester in 1877, and has been part of the Diocese of Southwark since 1905.
In the present day, the Parish of Putney is home to two notable churches: St. Mary's and All Saints. These historic places of worship continue to play a central role in the community's religious and cultural life.
Putney has been home to several notable individuals throughout its history:
All Saints' Church, a survivor of two World Wars, two arson attacks, and a bout of dry rot, stands as a testament to resilience and revival. Built between 1873 and 1874 on land generously donated by Earl Spencer, this church was a response to Putney's growing population and the need for additional religious spaces in the parish.
Architects William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones designed this Grade 2 listed masterpiece, which, despite its troubled past, stands in robust health today. In the late 20th century, the church faced challenges, with its congregation dwindling to just over 20 people, primarily attending the 8 a.m. service. Under the leadership of Revd. James Fraser, the future of All Saints' appeared uncertain.
However, in 1989, the church's fate took a positive turn. Family services began in May, and regular weekly services resumed in 1993, thanks to the dedicated efforts of Revd. Jonathan Draper and curate Sally Theakston. Not long after Sally's arrival, the church endured a second arson attack, but swift action by the police and dedicated church members prevented extensive damage.
A comprehensive renovation program in the 1990s, costing nearly £1 million (in contrast to the £7,809 spent on its initial construction in 1874), fully restored All Saints' to its former glory. In a more recent milestone, the church welcomed its first-ever team vicar, Revd. Diane Rees, marking another chapter in its long and storied history.
For the Parish of Putney, St. Mary's and All Saints' Church stand as symbols of tradition, resilience, and spiritual vitality, continuing to serve the community and enrich the local heritage.