Islington Village was expanding rapidly in 1800. The parish of which St Mary on Upper Street was the Parish Church stretched from The Angel Inn to Archway up the Holloway Road.
The vicar was George Strahan, who had been in post since 1772 and had been a friend of Samuel Johnson and Benjamin Frankin.
The Patronage of Islington was auctioned in 1811. It was bought for £11,000 by William Wilson [1756-1821] - the great great great grandfather of John Wilson who is one of our current church wardens. William was a silk merchant of Cheapside and a founder member of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1799, whose training college was in Islington.
His aim, along with other Evangelicals of the Clapham Sect in acquiring the right to appoint vicars was to seek to ensure the faithful exposition of biblical truth.
His cousin John Wilson who lived in Terretts Place opposite St Mary’s was a trustee of George Whitefield’s famous meeting houses in Moorgate and Tottenham Court Road.
When William Wilson died in 1821 he left the patronage to his nephew Daniel Wilson [1778-1858] who upon the death of George Strahan in 1824 appointed himself vicar.
Daniel responded to the appeal of the Bishop of London in 1828 to build three new churches in Islington. One of these was St Paul’s on Balls Pond Road on the corner of the Mildmay Estate.
Following the appointment of Daniel in 1832 to the Bishopric of Calcutta, his son, Daniel [1805-1886] became Vicar of Islington. Overcrowding at St Paul’s led him to take the initiative in 1854 of building the daughter church of St Jude’s on Mildmay Grove North beside the new railway, with a school attached.
From the start the church had close links with CMS and the Evangelical wing of the Church of England.
William Pennyfather was appointed vicar of St Jude’s in 1864. In his nine years he seems to have been a man of great energy. His response to the cholera epidemic of 1866 was to found a medical mission in Bethnal Green.
He also founded a Deaconess Institution offering full-time careers for mission to young women. These initiatives eventually became the Mildmay Mission Hospital well-known for its pioneering rehabilitation work with AIDS victims.
The Mildmay Conference Hall on Mildmay Park was built in 1869 capable of seating some 3000 people; it was used for educational and evangelistic meeting. It was finally demolished in the 1940’s.
A stone at the east end or the church recalls Pennyfather’s rebuilding of the Chancel and extending of the church in 1871. There is also a memorial to him in the church. He died in 1873 but his hymn “Jesus stand among us in thy risen power” lives on.