The Newington Green Unitarian Church is the earliest site of nonconformist worship still in use in London and one of the earliest Unitarian chapels in England. As well as representing a rare survival, the building is associated with a number of prominent figures, including Joseph Priestley, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (second US President) and Mary Wollstonecraft, who all worshipped here.

The building stands on the site of Charles Morton's Academy, one of the most important dissenting academies of the seventeenth century, attended by Daniel Defoe and Samuel Wesley, father of John and Charles Wesley (founders of Methodism).

The church was erected in 1708 by Edward Harrison, goldsmith, for a congregation established in 1682. The box-like space was enlarged by adding a shallow apse in 1860, when the front was also altered to its current form.

The simple but harmonious façade has Tuscan pilasters supporting a large pediment, with central door flanked by two arched windows. Entered via a narthex (vestibule), the galleried interior has eighteenth-century panelling and box pews (with rare original ball hinges) to either side (Mary Wollstonecraft sat in pew 19) and Victorian pews in the centre. The eighteenth-century domed skylight with acanthus plasterwork and the decorative backboard from the original pulpit survive.

There are wall monuments to several notable Unitarians, including Dr Richard Price (minister, political theorist and inventor of life tables as used by the Equitable Life), Anna Laetitia Barbauld (poet) and Samuel Rogers (poet and banker).


 
print buttonclose button