The Fitzrovia Chapel: The Middlesex Hospital’s original chapel during the AIDS crisis

The Fitzrovia Chapel is a Grade II* listed building that was originally housed within the Middlesex Hospital. The hospital no longer exists, but the chapel has been preserved and beautifully restored, and is now available to hire for events, exhibitions, civil marriages, civil partnerships and even proposals. Director Faye Hughes explains more.

How would you describe the Fitzrovia Chapel?

A hidden gem with a surprising history.

Tell us one to two things about the chapel that readers most likely won’t know.
Rudyard Kipling was held in state here before his funeral at Westminster Abbey. And we recently doubled as the House of Commons Crypt in the BBC’s adaptation of controversial novel Apple Tree Yard.

Why is the Fitzrovia chapel an important building?

It has an architectural significance, a rich history and a hopeful, inclusive future. The chapel was designed in 1891 by celebrated Victorian architect John Loughborough Pearson and completed posthumously in 1929 by his son Frank. Pearson was a Gothic Revival architect renowned for his work on churches and cathedrals including some of Britain’s finest ecclesiastical buildings, including Truro Cathedral, Bristol Cathedral and St Margaret’s, Westminster.

It is the last remaining building of the Middlesex Hospital, which closed its doors in December 2005 and sold all its buildings, including the chapel, to a developer. So for the former hospital community, including patients and families of those treated here, it is a very important place. The Middlesex treated royalty and Winston Churchill, carried out operations in its basement during the Blitz, and pioneered forms of penicillin. In April 1987, Diana, Princess of Wales visited the AIDS ward at the hospital. Photographs of her taking the hand of a patient were published worldwide and that simple action, considered so radical, was instrumental in gaining much needed support for the sufferers and the LGBT community.Our future is equally inclusive; as a secular place we are open to all.

What role has the chapel played in the past?

Our historic Grade II* listed secular chapel was originally part of the former Middlesex Hospital and for, nearly a century, a place of quiet contemplation for staff, patients and visitors alike. It was restored in 2015 after years in darkness. Due to the international financial crash in the late 2000s, the site lay dormant for some years. The chapel remained visible as a little island in the middle of the vast, empty site.

And what role does it play now?

We are an exquisite secular chapel devoted to quiet contemplation, reflection and celebrating the importance of beauty. We are a place for all people hosting celebrations, cultural events and as a place of quiet contemplation and reflection.

What is your role at the chapel and how long have you worked there?

I am the chapel’s first director. I started in September of last year and am responsible for the creative, cultural and strategic leadership of the chapel. I need to ensure we maintain it which means making it pay the £10,000 per month it costs to keep it this beautiful and then fill it with things that people want to come and see.

What is the chapel’s connection to London’s gay community?

Fitzrovia is a bohemian area with a number of LGBT connections. We have links to AIDS charities because of history with the hospital and are expanding these as a secular venue, hosting same sex weddings and inclusive to all.

Is the chapel still a religious space?

We never were! This is a common misconception. The chapel looks like a religious building but was never consecrated. During its time serving the hospital, services for a variety of faiths were held there and the space opened its doors to anyone who needed a place to reflect.

What regular services/uses does the chapel offer?

We are fast becoming a leading central London venue for civil marriages and civil partnerships. We are open to hire for events, exhibitions and even proposals! We are hoping to launch our artistic programme later this year. Our opening hours can be found on our website – come in and breathe in the beauty. Beauty is important.

The Fitzrovia Chapel, Fitzroy Place, 2 Pearson Square, London, W1T 3BF.

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