St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden
The Society's adopted church
The historic church of St. Paul's is in the heart of London's busy Covent Garden.
In 1631 Inigo Jones was commisioned by the Earl of Bedford to design a square, surrounded by mansions, a chapel an four streets. Work on the church began in 1631 within the portico facing eastwards on to the Piazza. The church was completed in 1633, at a cost of £4,000 and was consecrated in 1638. In 1645 Covent Garden was made a separate parish and the church was dedicated to St. Paul. The first known victim of the Great Plague, Margaret Ponteous, was buried in the churchyard on 12th April 1665.
In 1788 Thomas Harwick began a major restoration. In 1795 there was a terrible fire. The Paish records were saved, as was the pulpit, the work of Grinling Gibbons or one of his pupils.
St. Paul's is widely known as the Actors' Church. The connection with the theatre began as early as 1663 with the establishment of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and was further assured in 1723 with the opening of the Covent Garden Theatre - now the Royal Opera House.
On 9th May 1662 Samuel Pepys noted in his diary the first "Italian puppet play" under the portico - the start of "Punch & Judy", a fact commemorated by an annual service in May.
The painter JMW Turner and WS Gilbert of Gilbert & Sullivan fame, were baptised at St. Paul's. Among those buried at St. Paul's are Samuel Butler, Grinling Gibbons and Thomas Arne (the composer of "Rule Britannia"). Memorials in the church are dedicated to many famous personalities of the 20th century, including Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Gracie Fields, and Ivor Novello. The ashes of Ellen Terry and Dame Edith Evans rest in St. Paul's.
George Bernard Shaw based the opening scene of Pygmalion - the play that formed the basis for "My Fair Lady" - under the portico.
The award winning garden around the church provides a haven of tranquillity in the busy area and is maintained entirely at the cost of the church.
The church and gardens are usually open to the public from 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.
For full details of events at St. Paul's please contact: