In 1720, a retired army Captain, John Gray, purchased a block of land close to the river in East Twickenham to build homes for ‘respectable citizens of Twickenham’. Montpellier Road as he named it, was to have its own chapel and school, which would serve the householders and their families and staff. Gray obtained approval from the Bishop of London to build what was to become known as Montpellier Chapel and to appoint his own chaplain. An engraved communion plate dated from 1720 commemorates the opening of Montpellier Chapel and this plate is now held by St Stephen’s.
In 1848 the rail service operated by the London and South Western railway was extended to Twickenham and in 1873 residents petitioned for a local station at St. Margaret’s. One of the key petitioners was a builder and developer, Henry Little, who owned Cambridge Park House and who had begun to develop the land around the house for housing bankers, lawyers and business owners who wanted to live in outer London. This became the present Cambridge Park and number 21 served as the St Stephen's vicarage until 2010.
With the coming of the railway the population expanded and Montpellier Chapel, which had been built to accommodate 250 was now too small. The Little family donated the triangle of land bounded by an ancient right of way (now St Stephen’s Passage) and the Richmond Road. The triangular shape is why St Stephen's is not built to the usual east-facing ecclesiastical layout but in fact faces north.
In April 1873, an appeal was launched to raise the £7,000 needed to build the church, designed to seat 1,000 people. By August 1873, the full amount was oversubscribed, and the architects Lockwood and Mawson were commissioned. A new parish was divided off from Twickenham, and The Duchess of Teck (the mother-in-law of the future George V) laid the foundation stone. The church was completed by December 1875 and consecrated by the Bishop of London. The first Vicar was The Revd Francis Moran, who had been the minister at Montpellier Chapel. Henry Little became the first Peoples Churchwarden.
St Stephen's became operational in 1876 and the Montpellier Chapel was subsequently sold and used by various secular businesses. The Chapel finally collapsed in 1941 and was replaced with a modern house. Some of the stones from the Chapel arched windows were brought to St Stephen’s and in 2011 were used to make a commemorative bench outside the new extension extension to the church called the Spring.
In 1896 a chapel was built by St Stephen’s on the northern edge of the parish to serve the residents of the workers' cottages in the area now bounded by the Winchester and Chertsey roads. This building is now used by St Stephen’s School, which was built at the same time.
In 1976, the Centenary Room was created from the West (South) door entry area to mark the church's centenary year. A new building for community and church (the Crossway) was opened in 1999, and an extension to the church (the Spring) built alongside St Stephen’s passage and opened in 2011 by the Bishop of Kensington, Paul Williams. In 2013 work was completed on developing a dedicated prayer chapel within the church; a space that was officially opened in September 2013.
Internally, the church has some fine Victorian stained glass and the tops of the stone columns are decorated with carvings of flowers based on the plants in Henry Little’s garden. The church's evangelical tradition is commemorated by stone carvings below the clerestory windows of the heads of the key leaders of the Reformation - they are believed to be the faces of Luther, Calvin, Cranmer and Ridley. The church also has one of the best preserved Willis organs in London.
With acknowledgement to previous and current members of St Stephen's, to the Twickenham Local History Society and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.