Above: View of the chapel, looking towards the altar.
Nearly every hospital has a chapel built within its bounds. In 18th and 19th century hospitals they were often very ornate and very grand with equally grand chapels. We do not often think of hospitals having fine church architecture but we should and, in London, we have a very fine collection. One of the finest examples is inside one of the Victorian buildings of St Thomas’s Hospital.
The chapel is well inside the building. You have to negotiate several corridors and then climb a very grand staircase to reach the chapel which on the first floor. The block in which it is situated has very high ceilings so the staircase is particularly long.
The historic chapel was officially reopened and blessed in February 2016 after eight months of painstaking restoration. The work has preserved the Grade II listed chapel’s unique features, some of which date back to when St Thomas’s Hospital opened on its current site in 1870 – opposite the Houses of Parliament. The February ceremony was conducted by the Right Reverend Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth, which was very appropriate because the hospital is so close to Lambeth Palace.
Above: The altar and reredos looking particularly clean, photographed soon after the chapel was reopened in February 2016.
The reredos (a panel behind the altar) is the Sir Henry Doulton Memorial by one of the factories most skilled craftsmen – George Tinworth. It was made 1898-99 in terracotta. Each panel is 3.2m high x 1.24m wide, signed with Tinworth’s monogram of a ‘G’ entwined with a ‘T’.
The chapel also features a memorial to Florence Nightingale who founded the original school of nursing at St Thomas’s Hospital.
Although the chapel is well ‘tucked away’ within the hospital buildings it is open day and night for the use of any staff or patients who might want to use it. Of course, services are held there at certain times. It is also open for public use and anyone can visit it at any reasonable time.