The present church is the fourth to serve the area. The first was built around 1200, dedicated to St John the Evangelist, and was the parish church of Tyburn. It stood on Oxford Street near the present Marble Arch (pictured below left). At this time, the area was fairly uninhabited and desolate and the influential part of the parish was at the end of Marylebone High Street. Therefore during 1400, a new church was built further to the north. This church was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, by the Bourne; the Tybourne being a stream running from what is now Regent's Park down to the Thames. In the course of time the dedication became St Mary le burn, eventually corrupted to St Marylebone.
In its turn the building was replaced in 1742 with another small church on the same site (pictured above right and on the right). The poet Lord Byron (1788-1824) was baptised there in 1788. The Admiral Lord Nelson (1758-1805) worshipped here and had his daughter Horatia baptised here in 1801.
By the end of the 18th century the farmlands of the parish had been extensively developed. Portland Place, Harley Street and Wimpole Street had become a residential area for wealthy families. The little church was now hopelessly inadequate for such a hugely increased population.
Led by the Duke of Portland, who owned much of the neighbourhood, the parishioners erected the present church at a cost of £80,000. It was designed by Thomas Hardwicke and consecrated on 4 February 1817. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) and his family lived nearby in Devonshire Terrace and his son was baptised in this church.
In 1882, the Church Council decided on an extensive redevelopment of the church. The work begun in 1884 and a memorial stone, laid by Mrs Gladstone (wife of the Prime Minister) can be seen in the outside wall of the apse. These alterations were completed during 1885, and resulted in the appearance of the church much as we see it today (pictured left). Thomas Harris, an architect and churchwarden of the parish drew up the new plans. The main features of the alterations were the removal of the end wall, the creation of a chancel for a robed choir and a sanctuary within the new apse.
The upper galleries on the sides of the church were removed, revealing the full length of the windows and letting in more light. New, beautifully carved mahogany choir stalls with angel ends were installed and the floor was covered with marble. A gilded cross in the ceiling is above the site of the original altar. The new decorations, full of symbolic references and scriptural quotations, with Alleluia as the central theme, were in the neo-classical style combined with the pre-Raphaelite love of detail.
The church was full every Sunday as the wear on the staircase to the galleries testifies. Men sat on the left of the nave, ladies on the right, children and servants in the galleries. In 1817 the church had been built over a large vaulted crypt. This served as the parish burial ground until 1853 when the entrance was bricked up and its use discontinued. In 1980 the then Rector conceived a plan to remove the dead and bring in the living. With due authority over 850 coffins from the crypt were re-interred at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.
Those known to have been baptised here:
Henry Hatch Reffell, baptism date: 19/3/1811
Charles Reffell, baptism date: 23/12/1811
Mary Ann Reffell, baptism date: 23/10/1816
Emma Esther Reffell, baptism date: 17/3/1820
Mary Ann Reffell, baptism date: 3/12/1820
William Reffell, baptism date: 14/2/1822
Caroline Reffell, baptism date: 8/11/1822
William Reffell, baptism date: 20/4/1823
Antonio Reffell, baptism date: 30/1/1825
John Baptist Norton, baptism date: 20/12/1829
William Edward Reffell, baptism date: 13/8/1857
Those known to have been married here:
Ann Reffell and James Pearcy, marriage date: 17/2/1800
Ovid Topham and Maria Burchatt, marriage date: 13/8/1811
Mary Ann Leshley and Antonio Caballero, marriage date: 20/10/1820
John Norton and Katherine Rebecca Norden, marriage date: 11/6/1826
Fanny Reffell and Henry Jordan, marriage date: 8/11/1830
Richard Reffell and Elizabeth Dickinson, marriage date: 18/9/1851
Edwin Reffell and Fanny Frampton, marriage date: 21/7/1855
Edward Forrester Reffell and Caroline Elizabeth Leshley, marriage date: 23/2/1856
Elizabeth Rebecca Reffell and Etienne Ernest Magloire Masset, marriage date: 27/8/1859
Henry Reffell and Sarah Morton, marriage date: 21/8/1862
Edward Reffell and Minnie Mason, marriage date: 17/1/1875
Those known to have been buried here:
Antonio Reffell, age: child, burial date: 29/5/1825
Caroline Reffell, age: 53, burial date: 25/3/1876