Inside the restored Middlesex Hospital chapel

Until fairly recently, there was a large plot of empty land in central London, sealed off, and incongruously, a small church sat alone in the wasteland.

This was the site of the Middlesex Hospital, closed in 2005, the land cleared in 2008, and then left empty until just a couple of years ago.

The former Middlesex Hospital, as with most hospitals cares for the body and the mind, and in the 1920s constructed a small chapel for those whose minds sought higher healing.

When the hospital building was demolished, as it is a Grade II* Listed building, the chapel was preserved, resulting in the bizarre sight for many years of a small “church” sitting in the middle of nothingness.

Until a few years ago, then a cluster of generic modern offices and flats sprung up around it.

During the redevelopment of the site, the chapel was kept stable on a column of soil surrounded by deep piles while the surrounding hospital buildings were demolished for the second time in the chapel’s history. Four floors of basement for the new housing car parks were then excavated round it.

The chapel fabric and interior were then subject to a £2m restoration and the building re-endowed with maintenance funds by the developer. The planning gain agreement stipulates community use of the restored chapel and it is to be leased to All Souls Langham Place church, who will guarantee public access.

This weekend was in fact the first chance to visit the restored chapel.

The exterior has been cleaned up, probably too well, as it looks positively modern, and totally out of keeping with the rest of modern the buildings in the area. It’s also been squashed up against a restaurant, for reasons which become shockingly clear upon entry through a small side door.

The former front door is now infilled with glass, resulting in the chapel becoming decoration for the restaurant.

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However, turn away from mammon, and look towards the rest of the chapel, and the full glory of God is revealed in a magnificent mosaic decoration. As with many smaller chapels of this time, the decoration is heavy, but in small spaces curiously not too overwhelming.

A small altar remains, but at the moment, the chapel is devoid of any seating — possibly just for the weekend to cope with camera wielding crowds.

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The stained glass windows recall its medical heritage, and the side room is filled with plaques in the memory of former doctors or trustees who were prominent in the chapel’s history.

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Curiously, the chapel was never consecrated, and is officially a secular place. The current trustees are seeking a marriage permit, so, in theory, it could hold gay weddings, should someone want one in a technically secular, but aesthetically undeniably religious setting.

At nearly a hundred years old, the chapel has been given a new lease of life.

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8 comments on “Inside the restored Middlesex Hospital chapel
  1. Paul thomson says:

    If it was never consecrated I don’t know why it wasn’t used FOR the restaurant ! A considerably larger number would have benefited from seeing it !!

  2. Jo Siedlecka says:

    So pleased to read this.. I used to live near the hospital and have been watching the development for ages. I wonder how one can get to visit the chapel? Can you advise?
    Thanks
    Jk

  3. Pam stanbridge nee moore says:

    I trained as a physiotherapist between 1969-1972 within the hospital working in many of the wards during my training of three years.
    The chapel was regularly used by all the staff and students as a place of quiet and for reflection .
    I should very much like to be able to visit and remember these years. I have watched the demolition of the hospital with sadness but understanding and a notice explaining the chapels history would also do it justice.

  4. val- 65 -69 says:

    How could anyone be so lacking in compassion than to suggest it should be part of a restaurant?
    It is the only building left of the Middlesex Hospital an institution that had existed from 1748. It is a puzzle to us (ex staff) that some people seem to want to obliterate the very fact such a great institution even existed by naming Fitzrovia Square, Pearson Chapel. What is wrong with Middlesex Square and Middlesex Hospital Chapel? Please leave us something for all the ex- staff and patients that owe so much to the great place and all their precious memories.

  5. Anyone who takes the trouble to delve into the history of surgery between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries will discover a wealth of famous names attached to the Middlesex and so it is very sad to witness its obliteration. The chapel is a beautiful building and it would be appropriate if it contained some illustrations/ notes about the illustrious hospital at whose centre it once stood.

  6. Kay Galr says:

    I was fortunate to train at the Middlesex as a SRN 79-82; then worked as a Staff nurse 82-84. As others have said the chapel played an important role as a place of calm whatever one’s beliefs.I visited in 2015, an Open London date. Wow it is beautiful & so clean!Back in my time the building was within the hospital,so very little light. Can anyone confirm that the chapel was used in Appletree yard? If you Google Pearson chapel Fitzrovia
    It should give you opening details.

  7. MCCOOK says:

    I LOVE THAT CHURCH VERY MUCH MY MUM WAS VERY ILL IN THE HOSPITAL ON THE UPPER FLOOR’S THE DOCTOR’S CALLED MY FOUR SISTER’S INTO A ROOM TO TELL THEM HOW BAD SHE WAS I WOULD NOT LISTEN I REMEMBER RUNNING DOWN ALL THE STAIRS TO THE CHURCH AND PRAYED AND PRAYED AT THE ALTAR PLEASE SAVE MY MUM AND GOD HEARD MY PRAYER AT THAT CHURCH AND GAVE MY MUM AND US ANOTHER 6 YEARS WITH HER I HAD LOVED THE CHURCH FROM THAT DAY ON AND ALWAYS WENT THERE ON A CHRISTMAS EVE OR OCCASIONS I NEEDED TO PRAY, TO THINK OF IT AS A RESTAURANT FILLS ME WITH HORROR IT IS A PLACE OF WORSHIP I GO THERE TO GIVE THANKS BUT WHEN IT WAS BEING RESTORED I COULD NO LONGER GO BUT I WILL GO VERY VERY SOON AND GIVE THANKS AND PRAYERS IN THAT WONDERFUL PLACE X SORRY THIS IS IN LARGE PRINT

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