While the present church building was completed in 1726, there are references to a church on its current site back in 1222.
Henry VIII built a new church on the site in 1542, at the same time extending the boundaries to prevent plague victims being carried through his palace. This church stood here for 179 years before being pulled down to be replaced by the current building.
The church and its parish appears on many maps over the years, and we’ve recently commissioned a new commemorative map of the parish, to mark the 300th anniversary of the first foundation stone being laid at the church.
The map was created by artist Adam Dant and is accompanied by a London walking tour app in which visitors can revive the tradition of beating the bounds – walking the parish to remember the boundaries of St Martin’s.
This was traditionally done in St Martin’s and other parishes around the country as a way of re-affirming the territories of each parish, as well as a way to pass the knowledge on from one generation to another.
Often the reason was that most parish boundaries were not recorded on maps, though the tradition continues in ceremonial form to the present day in some areas.
Thanks in part to its location in Central London, St Martin’s parish has been well recorded in maps over the years.
Agas map (1561)
The Agas map is a bird’s eye view of Early Modern London. It’s known as the Agas map due to a ‘spurious’ attribution to surveyor Robert Agas. No originals survive but we can the map from 17th century reprints.
St Martin’s church can be seen online in this version of the map.
Braun and Hogenberg (1562)
The church built in 1542 can be seen in a detail from Braun and Hogenberg’s 1562 map.
If you zoom into the full map, which can be viewed at the British Library online, you can see the church surrounded by fields on the left of the map.
‘A mapp of the parish of St Martins in the Fields, taken from ye last survey, with additions’ (1685)
This plan of the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields, which can be found in the British library was completed by Richard Blome in 1685.
This plan of the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields shows the Banqueting House at Whitehall, the New Exchange on the Strand and Northumberland House.
The southern part of today’s Leicester Square is shown near the top of the map, named as Leicester Fields. A dotted line marks the boundaries with the neighbouring parishes of St James and St Giles.
Ordnance survey (1871)
This map, based on the Ordnance survey Town Plan of London, shows the parishes of Westminster as they appeared in 1870.
Stanford’s Map of London (1877)
This map shows the ‘boundaries of parishes, ecclesiastical districts, and poor law divisions’ and was created by Edward Stanford in 1875, with further revisions in 1877.
The Novel Map of the Parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields (2021)
Adam Dant’s new commemorative map will be unveiled at his upcoming solo exhibition – The Return of London at the Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields.
This exhibition will show the new map of the parish, alongside a collection of limited edition prints and original drawings including maps that salute London’s Theatres, Lost Rivers and bustling London Squares.
We can’t reveal it just yet, but the map will be unveiled for all to enjoy at the exhibition, which runs from May 1 to July 31.