St John’s Smith Square Is A Striking Classical Concert Hall


st john's smith square


Charles Dickens may have labelled St John’s Smith Square a “monster”, but concertgoers in Central London would probably beg to differ. This imposing structure – a former church with a rich history – is popular because of its vintage setting and outstanding acoustics and has played host to many a known name in the classical music world.

St John’s Smith Square, Westminster, London SW1P 3HA. Phone: 020 7222 1061


If you’re ever wandering around the beautiful backstreets near Westminster Abbey, you might be surprised to suddenly stumble on a square that’s home to a magnificent church, unlike any other in London. You can’t miss it: it’s enormous, takes up the whole square, and has four towers.

This is St John’s, built by Thomas Archer in 1728, and one of the most highly regarded works of English Baroque architecture. It’s also known as Queen Anne’s Footstool. The legend goes that when the architect asked the queen what she wanted the church to look like, she kicked over her footstool and said, “Like that!”. Charles Dickens said of the church in Our Mutual Friend that it appeared to be "some petrified monster, frightful and gigantic, on its back with its legs in the air." Not a fan, then.

Despite what Charles Dickens may have thought about it, this magnificent building is not only impressive but all the more striking for being hidden away out of sight. You can hardly see it until you’re almost on top of it, at which point it seems to have suddenly appeared out of nowhere. It’s quite a remarkable experience.

Today, after a long period of restoration that began in 1965, St John’s is a thriving classical concert hall – as was its architect’s original intention – and hosts many of the world’s leading orchestras and performers. Stop by for a lunchtime concert if you’re in the area, or book tickets for an evening performance and experience the full atmospheric impact as the sun sets over London.

Feature photo by Prioryman (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons