About St Matthias
St Matthias Church is as extraordinary in its history as it is for its architecture and accoustic.
From attracting controversy with its choice of architect – Victorian Gothic church designer Sir William Butterfield was renowned for his muscular, chunky designs – and the principle of unreserved seating for rich and poor alike, the consecration of St Matthias in 1853 marked the beginning of a remarkable story.
The building of an Anglican church near Newington Green was driven by local doctor Robert Brett because it was a ‘neighbourhood overrun with Dissent.’ St Matthias became notorious for its High Church rituals, stirred demonstrations by riotous mobs against its ‘closet popery’, and yet was renowned for musical excellence, with a long tradition of distinguished organists and choirmasters.
As the century closed, Stoke Newington’s finest houses were pulled down and replaced with terraces – and the population doubled. St Matthias – tickets for whose Sunday services were once on sale for half a crown in Bond Street – now focused on philanthropic and social work, and relief of the ‘spiritual destitution.’
Church halls were built in 1902 (called St Matthias Institute) by voluntary subscriptions – downstairs being used as a soup kitchen, and upstairs for classes and meetings. By 1913 four guilds, various church clubs and the first incarnation of the Women’s Institute were meeting here. Activities contributed to Newington Green being known as one of London’s cultural hotspots. A library was established in the1860s and one of London’s first parish magazines was published here.
Two world wars took their toll on St Matthias – poverty, parishioners dying in action, and the bombing of local streets in 1917 and more catastrophically in 1941 almost saw the church’s total demise. The community fought calls for demolition, and the halls were used as a temporary church, for parish activities, and to fundraise for rebuilding. St Matthias was reopened in 1954 with Grade I listing.
CommunityCultureSpace Ltd has been responsible for managing St Matthias Halls since 2016. We support the development of community arts activities and promote the use of the spaces to local individuals and groups. CCS is determined the bells of musical excellence and cultural activity will once again ring out from St Matthias.