An ancient place of prayer, St Mary's was founded in 1080 A.D. and was associated with the Archbishops of Canterbury in the 19th Century. St Mary the Blessed Virgin Church is the oldest public building still in use in Croydon. The exact date of the consecration of the church is not known but it is widely accepted that there was a church on this site by 1080 AD. It is a small building faced with flint with many stained glass windows.The chancel of the church is the oldest part of the building dating from Saxon times.
The trio of windows behind the altar date from 1140 and in 1180 the first tower was built, this being oblong rather than the present square tower. Patronage of the church was originally held by the Manor of Addington and the Lords of the manor were responsible for the upkeep of the church and so many alterations have occurred over the years to maintain the building and to enhance it leaving their 'mark' behind as a memorial to their generosity.
In the 15th Century, Lord Bardolf built a manor house at Addington and soon after the Leigh family took possession for nearly 300 years. Memorial tombs to this family dating back to the early 16th Century can be seen prominently inside the church. There are also two sets of brasses to the family and a son-in-law, Thomas Hatteclyffe who was master of the household to Henry VIII. In 1772 Barlow Trecothick, a former Lord Mayor of London started building a new house at Addington and also repaired the walls and tower of the church.
Unfortunately he died in 1775 before the house was finished and the manor of Addington changed hands several times before it became the property of the Archbishops of Canterbury to replace the Old Palace in Croydon as a summer residence in 1808. St Mary's provided a place of worship for six Archbishops until 1896 when Archbishop Benson died and his successor Archbishop Temple decided to seek a residence in Canterbury. The Chancel is decorated with Victorian wall paintings in memory of Archbishop Benson.
The church tower has a belfry with 6 bells, the earliest probably dating from 1380 as well as two 17th Century bells. The bells were restored in 1957 and are still regularly rung for services and celebrations such as weddings.In 1875, the church was closed for a year while the north aisle and vestry were added and the tower raised to provide a chamber for ringing the bells which had previously been rung from floor level.
Major restoration took place at the church during the 1980's when the roof was replaced and the Victorian wall paintings were restored. The church is a grade 1 listed building. St Mary's church has a closed churchyard with over one thousand memorials including a memorial to Archbishops Manners-Sutton, Howley, Sumner, Longley and Tait who are all buried at Addington. There is also a war memorial at Addington and 13 war graves within the churchyard from both world wars.
From April to September, the church is open to visitors each Sunday from 2.30pm-4pm.