In our address book
In our address book
The Taj Mahal of North Kensington
Words by Bertie Russell
From prayer hall to hippy hangout – the remarkable tale of Notting Hill’s Tabernacle.
The first church in Chelsea was founded in 1157, when the parish was just a riverside village several miles from the City of London.
However, in the nineteenth century London began spreading south and west, with smart new neighbourhoods for the middle classes. These neighbourhoods required new churches as well, meaning several places of worship were built in the gothic revival style that was popular at the time.
The majority of these buildings are still in use, including beautiful parish churches like St Luke’s, Chelsea, and St John’s, Notting Hill.
In addition, several other congregations have built places of worship in the borough, such as the baroque splendour of the Brompton Oratory, or the bold Modernist design of the Hyde Park Temple. However, a few of these churches have been converted into homes and public spaces, each one with a fascinating history. Perhaps the most famous converted church in the borough, the Tabernacle was founded in 1869 as a prayer hall for evangelical Christians. However, in 1887 the temporary metal structure was replaced by the current design, with a curving Romanesque façade of red brick decorated in terracotta tiles. The building was so striking that it became known as the ‘Taj Mahal of North Kensington’.
In 1975 the Tabernacle closed as a church and was used as a community arts centre. The neighbourhood was much less smart at this point, meaning next-door Powis Square became popular with musicians, hippies and activists. For a while, the Tabernacle was used as a rehearsal space for bands like The Rolling Stones, The Clash and Pink Floyd, and later it turned into west London’s leading rap venue. However, towards the end of the century the centre went bankrupt, meaning a trust was formed to rescue the site. Thanks to a grant from the National Lottery, the Tabernacle became a theatre, exhibition space, music studio and bar, and also the permanent base for the Notting Hill Carnival.
Link to The Tabernacle Events