St Luke’s Church was established as part of the secondary phase of building in the mid to late Nineteenth Century by the Church of England to provide spiritual provision for the extraordinary growth in London’s population between 1800 and 1900. In 1801 London’s population stood at just over 950,000. By 1901 over 6.5 million people filled our capital.
In 1851, within the Parish of Islington, the population was around 95,000 people.
By 1855 it had increased to 110,000; and these facts, together with the effects of the railway boom after the 1840’s; more tax revenue being made available after the end of the Crimean War in 1856; and the opening of the Metropolitan Cattle Market, where the Clocktower still stands today, all contributed to the need for the creation of a new Parish of West Holloway and a Church to meet that Parish’s needs.
On Sunday 4th May 1856 a temporary Church of St Luke’s was built on Camden Road with enough space for 1,000 people, and with the Rev Henry Hampton as the Parish’s first Vicar.
Building of the permanent Church – which we occupy today – began in 1859, and St Luke’s Church West Holloway was consecrated on 15th February 1860. By then it already had a new Vicar, the Rev. George Albert Rogers. Our first Vicar had by then left following a scandal.
During the subsequent course of St Luke’s 158 year history we have had twelve vicars presiding over the Church in that time. We are now awaiting our thirteenth Vicar to be given responsibility for the Parish of West Holloway.
In the early years from the 1860s up until the Second World War, the Church had good attendance and was an important part of life here in lower Holloway, meeting the religious and spiritual needs of a community that was during those years diverse in many ways. Attendance then, as now, did not necessarily reflect the make up of the local community, but all were welcome.
At the mid point of the Twentieth Century, attendance at St Luke’s, like that of many churches in England, began to dwindle and by the mid 1980’s there were probably less than 15 people or so meeting for the regular Sunday morning service. At that time, this was being held in the small hall upstairs as the main body of the Church was still filled with fixed wooden pews, and the space itself too expensive to heat.
As new people associated with Greenbelt arrived with a new sense of vision, St Luke’s took on a new form of life, and it started to become known as “the Greenbelt Church” after the wooden pews were removed and the space in the building divided up to incorporate office space for Greenbelt staff and volunteers. Greenbelt has long since left, but St Luke’s has re-invented itself and its building once more and hopes to welcome all for many, many more years to come.