British Listed Buildings

History in Structure

If you log in, you can comment on buildings, submit new photos or update photos that you've already submitted.

We need to upgrade the server that this website runs on. Can you spare a quid to help?.

Guards' Chapel at Former Chelsea Barracks, Westminster

Description: Guards' Chapel at Former Chelsea Barracks

Grade: II
Date Listed: 29 March 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1401791

OS Grid Reference: TQ2836878313
OS Grid Coordinates: 528367, 178313
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4892, -0.1525

Locality: Westminster
County: Greater London
Country: England
Postcode: SW1W 8QY

Incorrect location/postcode? Submit a correction!

Listing Text


Former infantry barracks chapel. Built c1860-3 to the design of George Morgan; S aisle and vestry added c1890.

Reason for Listing

The former Guards' chapel to Chelsea Barracks is designated for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: a good example of a mid-C19 barracks chapel built following the establishment of the Barracks and Hospitals Commission in 1857 designed in a simple but well-composed Romanesque-Byzantine manner. It is uncommon stylistically for its date, its austerity counterbalanced by good contrasting brickwork and sparse but well-detailed decoration
* Interior: surviving internal features of interest including the trussed roof, tile and mosaic flooring, and most notably the tiled memorials which have special interest for their commemoration of private soldiers, and for their unusual design
* Rarity: it is one of a fairly small number of surviving barracks chapels, especially few of which survive in Inner London
* Historic interest: as the chapel to a prominent and prestigious Inner London barracks, and a tangible reminder of the military presence in Chelsea
* Group value: with the contemporary railings enclosing the former barracks site


By 1850 the overcrowded and insanitary living conditions in barracks had become cause for national scandal, fuelled indirectly by infamous hospital conditions in the Crimea, and in 1854 a War Office committee was appointed to enquire into the matter. This resulted in an open architectural competition in 1855 for the design of a new cavalry barracks at Knightsbridge and a new infantry barracks at Chelsea. The winner of the infantry competition was George Morgan, a Westminster-based architect, who also came second in the cavalry competition. Although earlier barracks had been designed by civilian architects (notably the Wyatt dynasty), this selection of private architectural practices broke the Royal Engineers' virtual monopoly on barrack design. The complex had a long frontage facing Chelsea Bridge Road with a central gatehouse flanked by tall Romanesque-Byzantine towers; further buildings were grouped around the edges of the site with the chapel placed centrally at the rear of the parade ground, aligned with the gatehouse. The barracks housed 4 companies of Guards, about 280 troops in all. In 1960-1 the barracks was demolished apart from the chapel and boundary walls and railings and replaced with new buildings designed by Tripe and Wakeham. The site was vacated in 2008 and the troops transferred to the Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich. The 1960-1 blocks were demolished in 2010.

Chapels were not generally provided at barracks until the 1850s, Sunday worship having hitherto taken place at local churches, and they form a significant step in mid-C19 barrack improvement in providing for the moral as well as the physical well-being of their occupants. They were generally quite austere, as befitting their military context, comprising a provide a large hall for evangelical worship where a relatively poorly educated congregation would be encouraged to participate in hymn singing but with limited liturgical ceremony. The Chelsea Barracks chapel was used for recordings by the Grenadier Guards. It ceased use in 2008 when the barracks was vacated, and is now (2010) deconsecrated.


MATERIALS: Grey brick with yellow stock brick to N and S sides; red brick dressings and bandings, Portland stone and Bath stone decorative features. Slate roofs.

PLAN: The chapel is aligned NW/SE but the directions are described liturgically. The plan comprises a long six-bay nave, S aisle, a narrower W vestibule with a porch on the N and S sides, and a single-bay chancel terminating in an apse. A circular stair turret on the N side is set in the angle of the nave and vestibule, giving access to the gallery. The organ chamber is treated as short transept on the N side of the chancel. To either side of the apse is a small room, linked by a passageway around the rear of the apse; these appear externally as an ambulatory and small gabled chapels. To the SE of the chancel is the vestry of c1890; this is linked to the S aisle by a single-storey arched entrance lobby.

EXTERIOR: The design is eclectic, principally north Italian Romanesque with Byzantine and Venetian Gothic elements. The west gable has a bellcote (bell removed) and large eight-lobed rose window with cast-iron circular tracery, and three narrow windows beneath. A number of windows have metal frames with interlaced geometric patterns, while others have modern metal replacements. The apse has an arcade of windows divided by engaged columns and gauged red-brick heads, and triple windows to the lower 'ambulatory'. N and S elevations are in an austere Venetian Gothic style with paired round-headed windows under pointed gauged-brick arches with roundel, set within recessed panels. The eaves are decorated with saw-toothed brickwork, as are the recessed wall panels. Gabled N and S porches are carried on stone columns with carved capitals; entrance doors have coffered panels.

INTERIOR: The wide-span nave roof is carried on slender open timber trusses with paired crown-posts, comprising three transverse bays; the central bay arch-braced. Columns to nave arcade have Romanesque capitals terminating with a cul-de-lampe (triangular corbel) at W end. The eastern bay is included in the sanctuary platform, with a dwarf separating wall. The nave walls are inset with four commemorative hand-painted and gilded tiled panels depicting figures of David and Joshua on the N wall, and St John and St James on the S wall, set in moulded glazed tile frames. The panels depicting St James and Joshua bear, respectively, the names of private soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, Scots Guards who died between 1885-7, and the 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, who died between 1885-8. The others each have four empty spaces, presumably intended for further names. These are well crafted commemorations for ranks that were not commonly represented in memorials before the C20, and unusual for their sparse outline style and gilding.

A triple arch on columns with crocketed capitals opens into the chancel and thence the apse, each successively raised on steps. The chancel floor has ornate polychrome tiles. The apse is framed by an arch with responds carried on coupled columns on deep corbels. The sanctuary has a mosaic floor with monogrammed panels and a low cast-iron altar-rail; the altar has been removed but the marble plinth and mosaic border remain. Nave floor currently (2010) covered with vinyl (not of special interest). The organ has been removed. A newel stair on north-west side leads to the gallery. The gallery has a timber balustrade set behind large round-arched opening. Seating removed. Font removed from W vestibule, but the polychrome tile floor surround and marble plinth remain.

The interiors of the vestry and ancillary spaces adjoining the apse are not of special interest.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.