Our campaign to preserve the name of the Middlesex Hospital Chapel took a bizarre turn this week when the new trustees who are due to take charge of the building issued a statement saying the chapel “was never named” in the first place.
The statement followed a press announcement made by The Fitzrovia Chapel Foundation last Friday which said “The chapel will be referred to as the Fitzrovia Chapel, reflecting its key role in a resurgent Fitzrovia”.
In a press release Edward Turner chairman of the Chapel Foundation praised the developers Exemplar and Aviva for funding the restoration and supporting the Fitzrovia Chapel Foundations’s activities: “London is rarely gifted a new venue; rarely is that venue dedicated to its own neighbourhood and rarely is £2m lavished on its restoration.”
The press announcement however did not mention Westminster City Council’s role in insisting on the chapel’s restoration and an increased financial contribution for its upkeep through a section 106 agreement with the developer as part of the planning permission for Fitzroy Place.
Neither did the announcement respond to our campaign and petitions backed by more than 3,000 signatures calling for the name Middlesex Hospital Chapel to be retained.
So we requested that the chapel trustees specifically respond to the petitions.
In reply Edward Turner chairman of the trustees wrote to us on Tuesday this week to say:
“The trustees of The Fitzrovia Chapel Foundation read the petition surrounding the naming of the chapel and took it into consideration before deciding on the new name of the building.
“Through our research we have established that the chapel was never consecrated and never dedicated. More importantly, it was never named.
“The trustees have decided to call the chapel ‘The Fitzrovia Chapel’, as we believe this to be the most suitable name,” he said.
Exemplar will hand over the chapel to the Fitzrovia Chapel Foundation during 2015 when building work at Fitzroy Place is complete.
Michael Bucknell, a director at Exemplar, wrote to Westminster City Council on 10 March 2014 confirming that they wanted to change the name and drop any reference to Middlesex Hospital saying “… future occupiers both commercial and residential do not necessarily embrace the fact that the site used to be a hospital and due to differing levels of sensitivities, don’t welcome overpowering references to the hospital”.
Whether the Middlesex Hospital Chapel was ever officially named as such is something that some may want to spend time debating.
But the plain truth of the matter is that the building which was built within the old Middlesex Hospital was either called the Middlesex Hospital Chapel or the chapel of the Middlesex Hospital. Westminster City Council in its numerous conservation and planning documents has always referred to the building as the Middlesex Hospital Chapel, as does English Heritage.
More importantly, it is the name used by the former staff, patients and visitors who spent many a quiet time sitting within its beautiful walls.
The full statement from the trustees of The Fitzrovia Chapel Foundation (Tuesday 7 October 2014)
The trustees of The Fitzrovia Chapel Foundation read the petition surrounding the naming of the chapel and took it into consideration before deciding on the new name of the building.
Prior to choosing the name “The Fitzrovia Chapel”, the trustees, whose appointment was approved by Westminster Council, consulted a number of current and future stakeholders of the building. We were also sensitive to the need to ensure that the history of The Middlesex Hospital was not lost. The founding ethos of The Middlesex Hospital of a social purpose to benefit all, without discrimination, will continue in the future life of the chapel.
Through our research we have established that the chapel was never consecrated and never dedicated. More importantly, it was never named.
The trustees have decided to call the chapel “The Fitzrovia Chapel”, as we believe this to be the most suitable name. It locates the building geographically as well as architecturally.
The trustees intend to make the chapel open for all to visit and enjoy, free of charge. In addition, we plan to hire the building out to selected groups and individuals to raise money towards its upkeep. From our conversations with potential users of the building we have had consistent and strong feedback that the name “The Fitzrovia Chapel” will be popular and appealing.
It is important that the history of the chapel is not lost, and the retained memorial plaques and origins of the building as the chapel of The Middlesex Hospital will therefore be presented in the interpretative guide to the building, which we intend to make available to visitors and through our website.
The trustees recognised in the petition a very strong wish to preserve the history of the chapel. This we plan to do, with a memory book, by putting some of the history on line, and by erecting a plaque to commemorate and celebrate its use as a hospital chapel.
Chairman of trustees
The Friday 3 October 2014 press announcement is here.