One of the odder sights visible from the BT Tower is the former Middlesex Hospital. Most of the buildings have disappeared, leaving an expanse of bare ground; in the centre, the chapel remains.
Although it had been on the same site since the mid-eighteenth century, Middlesex Hospital was rebuilt between 1928 and 1935. However, it closed in 2005 and was demolished in 2008. Several redevelopment plans have fallen through, so the site remains almost empty.
Thanks to being listed, the Italian Gothic chapel has survived. Work began on it in 1891 under architect John Loughborough Pearson; he died before it was completed, so his son Frank took over until completion in 1929. It formed the heart of the complex, with the later buildings constructed around it. Today, it looks bereft without that context.
There are images of the interior here.
The chapel is fantastic, but will it be moved to a better site? Or will it be absorbed into whatever new building is constructed over its current site? From the photos, it reminds me a bit of Sainte Chapelle in Paris, beloved architecture of King Louis IX.
We have found this a most fascinating, and very informative, blog which we are so pleased to have discovered through Art and Architecture mainly.
The Middlesex Hospital Chapel was, until now, completely unknown to us. It appears vast and the interior is, as the images show, wonderfully decorated.
You may perhaps know of the chapel of The Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton which, alarmingly, is threatened with demolition in the hospital's expansion plans. Whilst in no way comparable with the Middlesex chapel, we passionately believe it should be preserved as a piece of history.
We are new to blogging but hopefully will be able to sign up to receive your future posts.
Caroline: Your picture of the chapel from the Tower is amazing - a moving portrait of a building cut adrift from its context. Thanks too for the links to beautiful photographs of the interior. J L Pearson was a remarkable architect. Of his many churches, St Augustine's Kilburn and St Peter's Vauxhall are favourites of mine. I hope one day to see the interior of this chapel too.
Thank you all. It really was an extraordinary sight, probably the most commented-on while we were there.
Hels, the plan is to leave the chapel there and build around it, but several schemes have fallen through (at least one was to be funded by an Icelandic bank).
Philip, I haven't been inside either of those churches but will have to make the effort. Jane and Lance, I had heard something of the Royal Sussex: it would be a terrible shame if the demolition is allowed. Thank you for your kind comments, I hope you continue to enjoy the blog!
Hi Caroline, thank you so much for this blog and your pictures. As a child the Middlesex hospital and especially the chapel became very close to my heart whilst I was being treated for luekemia at the hospital. I often went to the chapel with my parents, recall many Christmas carol services (with all the other children from the ward) and most of all it's absolutely breathe taking beauty (and a peaceful sanctuary in the daunting surroundings of the hospital). I'll never forget those times nor the chapel! I often think about going there to see the chapel and looked into doing so a few years ago. I was told by the council that as the site around the chapel is now unsafe and continues to be a building site we were unable to visit it. Do you have any idea if this has now changed or any great suggestions on how to find out some more information?
Hello Jodie, thank you for sharing your experience of the chapel. I'm afraid that as far as I know, it's still not possible to visit. In December last year, it was announced that Sheppard Robson would take over as architects so it my be worth contacting them for more information.
The chapel is fantastic and I am glad for one that it has been preserved as my granfather, Victor Leek was the Steward of the hopital during the Second World War and his memorial is located on the wall there. He was among a small and dedicated staff that managed to keep the hospital open while the bombs were raining down around them. Trevor Leek
What an amazing connection to have to the chapel, Trevor. It must have been an extraordinarily difficult job, but makes for a fascinating piece of family history.
This post has just been put on The Middlesex Hospital Facebook site. I trained, as a nurse, at the hospital. My daughter was able to 'use' the hospital chapel as an example when doing a project at Junior School on 'Different Places of Worship'.
Thank you for your article, which I linked to from the Middlesex Hospital Facebook group. Sadly, not only is the site of the former hospital being redeveloped in a modernist (and soul-less) manner, but the history of the site is being airbrushed. The developers renamed the site "Pearson Square" despite a petition calling for the commemoration of the Middlesex Hospital -- now they wish to "rebrand" the Chapel itself by calling it "Pearson Hall", and turning it into a limited-access facility (possibly a high-end restaurant)
The Fitzrovia News community newspaper has started a petition calling on Westminster Council to preserve the name of the Middlesex Hospital Chapel -- a special place with a vast amount of history attached. It should not be re-branded like a football stadium. I would urge everyone to take a look at the Fitzrovia News article at http://archive.fitzrovia.org.uk/2014/03/04/fitzrovia-news-no-132-march-2014/ and, of course, to sign the petition.
David Marriott, Admin Middlesex Hospital Facebook group and Middlesex-trained nurse
The chapel interior is now restored, and it was open this weekend for Open House (as 'Fitzrovia Chapel'): see more in this post. It should be open to the public much more often in future.
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