St Mary Matfelon Whitechapel
Building From 1329 To 1952
1250-1286: The first church was built on this site as a chapel of ease (meaning not the main parish church) in the parish of Stepney. The ‘White Chapel’ was constructed from Kentish chalk rubble and the distinctive appearance gave its name to the area. 1329: The original chapel was rebuilt as St Mary Matfelon. The parish of St. Mary's Whitechapel was created in 1673 when this church was rebuilt in red brick in a neo-classical ‘Roman’ style.
1875-7: The church was rebuilt in the 13th century Gothic style, but an 1880 fire meant it was rebuilt in 1882, enlarged but probably to the same basic design. WW2 bombs hit the church in 29 December 1940 and it was finally demolished in 1952 after the tower was hit by lightning. Opened as a public garden in 1966. Dedicated to the memory of Altab Ali in 1994.
Middlesex Heraldry has pictures of the church in 1860 before the Victorian rebuild and in 1894, after. The dates on the fountain mean that the "old church railing" from which the drinking fountain was removed is the railing we can see in the 1860 picture. Annoying that we can't also see the drinking fountain itself.
We learn at Bethnal Green War Memorials that this church's metal WW1 memorial was rescued and is now housed in The Bishopsgate Institute Library.
'Matfelon' is a type of thistle but here is probably a corruption of the Hebrew word Matfel, indicating the Virgin Mary.
Our picture is a photo of an information board in the garden, showing the two footprints.