St Michael’s was built in 1864-7 on Park Road, just south of the newly created Albert Park. Christ’s Hospital, the main town charity which owned what was then an open field north of Ock Street, had started to develop it for housing.
The new church was built through the efforts of the Reverend Nathaniel Dodson, the indefatigable vicar of St Helen’s and rector of St Nicolas’ from 1824 until a short time before his death in 1867.
The new St Michael’s, which had space for 650 worshippers, was needed to cater for those who lived at the western end of the town and were furthest from the town centre churches of St Helen and St Nicolas. Many of them lived and worked in the crowded courts on Ock Street. St Michael’s would later serve as the local church for the new housing as it developed.
The church was designed by George Gilbert Scott, the most prominent British architect of the time. Scott created a restrained and dignified building. It is in a simple gothic style with a tall west bellcote, and is built of roughly-coursed rubble stone.
Although fundraising for the new church had started in 1860 some funds were still lacking when the structure was completed, and the fittings in place for the consecration service were sparse: second-hand pews, a borrowed harmonium, no fixed lighting, and no heating. It took a combination of donations and the efforts of the congregation over the next few decades to provide lighting, heating, an organ, stained glass, and other fittings including a reredos of 1878 by Edwin Dolby and an altar of 1911 by Harry Redfern, both of them well known local architects. A church room was added in 1968 and there was a major refurbishment and reordering in 2008.
Initially, St Michael’s would have followed the same practices as St Helen’s and St Nicolas’ as it was served by the same clergy, and its baptism registers show that its congregation was largely from the surrounding neighbourhood. Today, and it seems since the 1920s, it is at the high church end of the Anglican spectrum and its congregation comes from all over Abingdon.
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© AAAHS and contributors 2013, revised 2022.