History of St Mary Moorfields

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The roots of the parish of St Mary Moorfields go back to several chapels that sprang up in the area in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Catholic worship in those days was illegal.

The chapels were known locally as ‘Penny Hotels’, as people had to pay a penny to a man behind a grill in the door before they were allowed in.

These were hard times for Catholics. In 1736, for example, the Gordon Rioters attacked the chapel in Ropemakers Alley, ripping out its altar, fittings and crucifixes. Following the Catholic Relief Act of 1791, Catholics were permitted to worship in public. And in 1820 the first church of St Mary Moorfields opened in Finsbury Circus. As the permanent seat of the Vicar Apostolic, it served as Cardinal Wiseman's pro-cathedral from 1850 to 1869.

The church was pulled down in 1899 and replaced by the present church in Eldon Street, which was opened on 25th March 1903. The architect was George Sherrin, who also designed the dome of the London Oratory as well as several Underground stations.