St Mary the Virgin in Mortlake High Street had served as the church for the whole of the extensive Mortlake Parish since 1543. But by the middle of the 19th century, with an increasing population and new housing at some distance from the parish church, there was a clear need for a new church at the southern end of the parish.
Parishioners who lived in East Sheen, notably Edward Penrhyn of The Cedars, took the initiative and in 1860 a call went out for funds. A Building Committee was formed, whose members read like a directory of the grand houses of East Sheen and Mortlake: James Stuart Wortley of East Sheen Lodge, Octavious Ommanney of The Planes, Charles Bagot of The Gables, Joshua Bates of Sheen House, Charles Ellis of The Orchard, William Gilpin of Palewell Lodge, Henry Kendall of The Limes, Josceline Percy (from whom Percy Lodge is named), Adolphus Liddell of Park Cottage, Henry Taylor of Uplands, Rev. FJH Reeves of Spencer House, Ottiwell Waterford the headmaster of Temple Grove School, and James Wigan of Cromwell House; with the perpetual curate Rev. John Manley as Chairman. By the end of 1861 the amount raised was sufficient for the Committee to instruct their chosen architect, Arthur Blomfield. After considering alternatives including a site on Upper Richmond Road, the Committee purchased a plot of land at the entrance to Sheen Common which had been part of the farm belonging to the Temple family.
Blomfield drew up plans for a church with a nave, chancel, south aisle and tower at the east end of the aisle. Provision was made for future enlargement by the addition of a north aisle, which was added in 1887. The church was designed to seat 400 in the nave and 125 in the aisle. The architectural style was 13th century northern French.
By early 1863 the building of the church was well advanced, and consecration planned for 16 April. But on Sunday 15 March, the tower collapsed, carrying a portion of the roof with it and destroying the main arch at the altar end. The Builder reported that there had been no clerk of the works appointed and, in the absence of the architect, the lower walls had been packed with rubble rather than being built of solid masonry. The work of clearing the site and rebuilding progressed quickly and the new church was consecrated on 13 January 1864.