Why does our neighbourhood want or need such a space? The answer to that lies in St Mary’s history and community.
St Mary’s was built in 1874 as a church for the servants of Eaton Square and the poor in the nearby slums of Pimlico. From the start it ran an active programme for its congregation including sewing classes, working men’s clubs and charabanc outings. Every week the parish newsletter provided space for local craftsmen to advertise their services alongside the traditional notices of births, marriages and deaths.
Now St Mary’s finds itself in one of the wealthiest areas of London, unrecognisable to the community for which it was built. There are fewer families, many homes are empty at the weekends, and the increasingly elderly long-term residents have found themselves more isolated. The evident wealth of its immediate surrounds masks increasing inequality which continues to grow, and Westminster Council has identified loneliness and isolation as one of its social priorities.
St Mary’s will use the upcoming anniversary as a springboard for a renewed programme of social action with this new facility at its centre. The local area has very few public spaces and this will provide a hub for social programmes such as lunch clubs for the elderly, and therapeutic initiatives such as Music for Dementia and Dance for Parkinsons. It will also provide a venue for community events such as children’s parties or yoga classes. In an increasingly fragmented world, St Mary’s will provide a neighbourhood hub for local residents as well as the wider community.