Camden News - by DAN CARRIER Published: 7 August 2008
St Stephen’s Trust chairman Michael Taylor
£20,000 for church from mystery donor
Major boost for renovation of historic building
A MYSTERY benefactor has stumped up £20,000 to replace two stained-glass windows at historic St Stephen’s church in Hampstead. The gift was made to the trust currently renovating and restoring the Victorian building on the corner of Pond Street and Rosslyn Hill – with the wish it be used to install two windows designed by Hampstead designers Clayton and Bell.
The windows were damaged or stolen while the church lay empty for nearly 25 years.
Trust chairman Michael Taylor found pictures of the original windows for the stained-glass experts to copy. “Although many of the windows were smashed by vandals, some were stolen,” he said. “I have a feeling that some of St Stephen’s stained glass is gracing the dining room of an American millionaire.”
The gift is the latest in a series of charitable donations. When the church was built, a family of Hampstead brewers stepped in after the original scheme ran out of cash. The cost of building the church rose from £7,000 to £22,000 – and the shortfall was met by a donation from the brewers.
The St Stephen’s Church Trust, the charity overseeing a 10-year, multi-million pound restoration project, have also gathered an impressive list of patrons to back the scheme including actors Helena Bonham Carter, Dame Judi Dench and Jude Law.
Mr Taylor also hopes to get the church clock working again.
The original workings have long been sold for scrap, but the outer faces are intact. “It’s not a priority, but it would be something we’d like to do further down the line,” said Mr Taylor.
The church was built in 1861 by Victorian architect Samuel Sanders Teulon, but has been empty since 1976.
Soaring maintenance bills and falling congregations meant its future was uncertain and the church had sold off its organ and many of the pews. With the Royal Free Hospital being built next door, there were rumours the church could be demolished and the land sold to the NHS.
Squatters then moved in and the site became run down.
But in 1998, retired architect Mr Taylor set up the trust and now the church will be used as a community performance space, offering courses for mature students in literacy and numeracy, while the undercroft has been enlarged to allow a school based next door to rent space.
Work on the roof and foundations have made the building watertight and secure and the second phase of the scheme should be finished by Christmas.