A brief history of St Anne’s Wandsworth
After the Napoleonic Wars in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, moves to have some kind of national monument of thanksgiving evolved into a scheme to build churches to serve the rapidly expanding urban population.
St Anne’s Wandsworth, built in 1822, was one of the first “Waterloo churches” as they came to be known. Its architect was Robert Smirke, who later designed the British Museum. It is built in Greek Revival style with a portico and a circular tower, which has the nickname “the pepperpot”. The tower is much higher than was considered proportionate for the building at the time; this enables the church, which is located on the crest of St Ann’s Hill, to be visible as a landmark for miles around.
The churchyard was originally meant to have been a burial ground, but this never happened because the bishop and the congregation never agreed on whether it should be enclosed by a stone wall or wooden fence! Their nineteenth century dispute is our twenty-first century gain, as we have attractive open grounds.
St Anne’s was originally part of the parish of All Saints, the ancient church in Wandsworth in the High Street. We became a separate parish in 1850. Originally the interior was rather gloomy with large box pews and prominent heavy galleries on either side. In 1891 the galleries were cut back and the pews replaced by the present ones, then in 1896 a local architect, E.W. Mountford, added the apsidal neo-Wren chancel. The interior was then extremely light and airy and it has changed little since.
The chapel to the right of the chancel (the south side of the church) was built as a memorial to Mountford’s wife, Jessie. Its decoration is heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement. On either side of the main doorway is a large wooden war memorial listing parishioners killed in World War I, including Frank Harvey VC, who saved his ship during the Battle of Jutland despite his terrible wounds. The church was badly damaged in World War II, and then the newly repaired building lost its roof in a fire in 1950. The coffered ceiling to the nave dates from after the fire. In 1996 the organ was restored by Rushworth and Dreaper.