Farm Street, the Jesuit church in the Mayfair district of London, has a special place in the hearts of many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. For over a hundred and fifty years it has served a community drawn to this church by its reputation for spiritual and intellectual vigour. Many have regularly travelled some distance to worship in this church and to seek the help and advice of the succeeding generations of priests who have served here.
After Catholic emancipation in 1829, when the position of Catholics in England became easier, a plan was conceived on a bold and imaginative scale for a permanent Jesuit church in London. It showed extraordinary vision and courage on the part of the Superior of the English Jesuits, Fr Randal Lythgoe, to have a church built to seat as many as 900 people.
In the 1840s , the Jesuits first began looking for a location for their London church, they found this site in a quiet back street. (The name derived from Hay Hill Farm which extended in the 18 th century from the present Hill Street eastward across Berkeley Square and beyond).
This church was opened in 1849 and it was from the start a place of beauty. There have been changes in the adornment of the building and although it has expanded (through the addition of the side-altars and their chapels) the impact is much the same. Generous benefactors made it possible for Farm Street church to become a gracious and peaceful place in the 19 th and 20 th century.
From 1849 until 1966 it was simply a Jesuit church, open to the public but not the centre of worship for a parish. Sacraments such as marriage and baptism could not be celebrated in the church and the reputation of Farm Street rested on the pulpit and the confessionals. It became famous for the work of many Jesuit priests whose guidance given to those seeking advice gently led many to embrace the Catholic faith
Since 1966 the church has been at the heart of a parish in the centre of Mayfair. The Jesuit community here has always consisted of Priests and Brothers attached specifically to the church, working in other apostolates or in retirement. The Parish is more than a geographic one, attracting its congregation not only from all over London and its surrounds but visitors from all over the world.