Designed by John Nash, favourite architect of King George IV, the church was consecrated in 1824 by the Bishop of London. At the time, Nash was also developing Regent's Park and Regent Street, and he designed All Souls with its circular columned portico to soften the awkward corner to join the existing Portland Place. The church is built of Bath stone and the unique spire is made of seventeen concave sides encircled by Corinthian columns, making two separate sections. The capitals are Ionic in design and made from Coade stone. The winged heads of the cherubs are unusual and based on a design by Michaelangelo. All Souls is unique in being the last surviving church by John Nash. The building was completed in December 1823 at a final cost of £18,323-10s-5d.
Nash's design did not meet with universal praise. A reviewer for The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction August 2, 1828, said
To our eye, the church itself, apart from the tower, (for such it almost is) is perhaps, one of the most miserable structures in the metropolis,—in its starved proportions more resembling a manufactory, or warehouse, than the impressive character of a church exterior; an effect to which the Londoner is not an entire stranger. Here, too, we are inclined to ascribe much of the ridicule, which the whole church has received, to its puny proportions and scantiness of decoration, which are far from being assisted by any stupendousness in their details, the first impression of which might probably have fixed the attention of the spectator. Indeed, the whole style of the tower and steeple appears peculiarly illadapted for so small a scale as has here been attempted.
The Rector of All Souls Church is still appointed by the Crown Appointments Office at No. 10 Downing Street. The links with the Crown date back to the time of George IV when the Crown acquired the land around the church. The Coat of Arms adorns the West Gallery.
On 8 December 1940, a landmine exploded, causing extensive damage to the church. The church was closed for some ten years while repair works were carried out. During this time, the congregation met for worship at St. Peter's, Vere Street.
In the early 1970s excavations were carried out at All Souls and when it was discovered that the foundations to the church were some 13 feet deep, the church undertook a massive building project under the supervision of then Rector, Michael Baughen (who later became Bishop of Chester before returning to the London Diocese to become an Honorary Assistant Bishop). The decision was taken to embark on this work, to facilitate having a Hall area underneath the church for the congregation and visitors to meet together after Services and during the week. At the same time, the opportunity was taken to restructure the interior of the church to make it more suitable for present day forms of worship.
All Souls is well known for its musical tradition, and part of that includes the organ installed in the west gallery in a handsome Spanish mahogany case designed by Nash. This case was enlarged and extended in 1913. In 1940 after war damage to the church, the instrument was dismantled and stored, then remodelled and rebuilt in 1951 with a new rotatable electric manual and pedal console situated on the chancel. The organ was rebuilt again, by Harrison & Harrison, during the mid-70s building project.
All Souls conducts four Services each Sunday, with an early morning Communion Service at 8am, followed by two Morning Services at 9.30am and 11.30am and an Evening Service at 6.30 pm. There is also a midweek Service on Thursdays during term time at 1.05 pm.
Sermons from Sunday services are uploaded for free streaming and download by the following Monday afternoon. The archive now contains over 3,000 sermons.
The current Rector is Hugh Palmer. Other clergy staff include former Rector and now Rector Emeritus of All Souls, John Stott, CBE. He is the author of more than 40 Christian books. John Stott is a regular member of the All Souls preaching team, as are Rico Tice who has developed the Christianity Explored course (an introduction to Christian beliefs, based on the Gospel of Mark) and Paul Blackham author of the Book by Book series of Bible series, available for small group use - on dvd and study guides www.biblicalframeworks.com
All Souls Church is in the Diocese of London.