The church of St Matthew’s, Westminster was consecrated in 1851, but what was the background to building a church so close to a large abbey and two other, quite large, parish churches?
For hundreds of years since the 11th century, the area around where St Matthew’s Church stands was dominated by Westminster Abbey. In 1681, Henry Purcell was living with his family in Great St Anne’s Street, while he was organist at the Abbey.
By 1711, the population of St Margaret's parish had grown to 20,000 and so the Church Building Commissioners considered that another church should be built in the parish. This church was publicly funded and the land was bought from Henry Smith who was also the Commissioners' treasurer! The church dedicated to St John the Evangelist was built in what is now known as Smith Square
At this time, the roads around Smith Square such as North Street and Cowley Street were also developed.
There was a certain amount of industry west of Parliament Square. The gas works dominated the area between Horseferry Road and Great Peter Street. A French visitor remarked on the gas works when she visited the area in 1842. She admired the machines and furnaces but she was appalled at the working conditions as well as the fumes. The Broadwood piano factory was situated in Horseferry Road near where the junction with Monck Street is today.