THE BUILDING OF ST MARK'S
If any one man can be called the ‘Founder’ of St. Mark’s it is surely the remarkable Evangelical churchman, Dr. Thomas Dale, later Canon Dale, the Vicar of St. Pancras. In the mid- 19th century, Dr Dale and his immediate predecessors had become gravely concerned by the increase in population in their area. After much effort Dale obtained agreement from the St. Pancras Church Extension Fund to provide support for clergymen to work in those parts of St. Pancras where there were as yet no churches. This resulted in the first committee meeting at 4 Albert Terrace, then only partially built, where the new district was planned.
Appointed to the pastoral care of this new district was a Scotsman and Graduate of Glasgow University, William Brown Galloway. At the time he was curate of St. Pancras Church and, like Dale, an Evangelical and prolific writer.
A temporary church was quickly erected at the corner of Princess Road, where 4 St. Mark’s Square and 36 Regent’s Park Road stand today. The building was duly licensed by the Bishop of London, Dr Blomfield, a great church builder, and opened for worship on 16 March 1848. An interesting statistic is that out of the 600 pews only a quarter were free. Pew rents were expected to be paid for the rest, as was then the custom in the Church of England.
It was Thomas Little, a local architect, who presented St. Pancras with the ground on which the church now stands. His plans for a building of Gothic design were approved by the committee, and a contract quoted at £6,546 was awarded to the company of Myers. On St. Mark’s Day, 25 April 1851, Dale came to lay the foundation stone of the permanent church.
Two years after the laying of the foundation stone the church was finally completed. Once again it was on St. Mark’s day that Bishop Blomfield consecrated the nave and the aisles. The Bishop preached a sermon, and after the service clergy and congregation were entertained at breakfast by the local Church Committee.
When the Committee met in December 1853 they felt justified, we are told, in incurring a large budget overspend and consequent debt of some £2000 in view of the pressing need of the district. So much of the area was being rapidly covered with houses that they expected the population would be doubled in a few years. The debt was finally cleared in 1859, the year of Little’s death.
An obituary in ‘The Builder’ of 31 December 1859 states that as a young man Little had practised as an architect and surveyor, but later concentrated on architecture. According to this obituary he was “much appealed to as an arbitrator, his strict honour and integrity being known”.
In 1858 William Galloway, being the natural choice, was appointed the first Vicar, but both he and the people of St. Mark’s had to wait another 38 years before the money could be raised to complete their chancel.
At the time of his retirement at 77 years of age, William Galloway claimed a congregation of more than a thousand. We can only imagine the scene on a Sunday morning with the tightly pewed and galleried church packed with locals, friends, family and children. Although William Galloway retired before the building of the chancel, he did see its completion, living to the age of 92, dying on 23 March 1903. A memorial tablet, put up by his friends in the year of his death, can be seen on the north wall of the church.