Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Mayfair Church, the Health Spa Tycoon and an Unholy Row That's Split the Neighbourhood; Dispute: Multi-Millionaire George Hammer Plans to Turn St Mark's Church in North Audley Street into a Spa. He Is Facing Opposition from the Congregation, Including Lady Sainsbury, Below

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Mayfair Church, the Health Spa Tycoon and an Unholy Row That's Split the Neighbourhood; Dispute: Multi-Millionaire George Hammer Plans to Turn St Mark's Church in North Audley Street into a Spa. He Is Facing Opposition from the Congregation, Including Lady Sainsbury, Below

Article excerpt

Byline: ELIZABETH HOPKIRK

A ROW has broken out over plans to turn a Grade I-listed church in Mayfair into a spa.

Multi-millionaire George Hammer, who founded The Sanctuary in Covent Garden, wants to turn the Georgian building into a "wellness centre".

He says it is the only way of saving the crumbling Greek Revival building, which has been on English Heritage's Buildings-at-Risk register for 20 years.

But worshippers at St Mark's Church in North Audley Street and local residents, including Lady Sainsbury and actors Ray Emmet Brown and Gary Beadle, are campaigning to keep it as a church and say it plays a vital role in the community.

Lady Sainsbury, wife of former government minister Sir Tim Sainsbury, is president of the Save St Mark's Action Group and regularly attends the church's women's group.

She said: "It's a wonderful Grade Ilisted building with a tremendous history.

It's a terrible indictment on society and on the Church if we are not able to keep this wonderful place open when there is a vibrant congregation there. I feel very strongly about it." St Mark's was built in 1824 and during the Second World War became a centre for American worshippers. It was visited by both President Dwight Eisenhower and Eleanor Roosevelt.

But during the Fifties and Sixties the congregation dwindled and the church was declared redundant in 1974. Since 1994 the Diocese of London has allowed an independent charismatic church to meet there. The Commonwealth Christian Fellowship has a congregation of around 120 and campaigners say it is active in the community, with antiknife crime training for teenagers and home visits for elderly people.

They want it to remain a place of worship but the Diocese of London has signed a deal with Mr Hammer, giving him a 112-year lease subject to West- minster council approving his plans. …

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