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Chapel at Pembury Hospital, Pembury

Description: Chapel at Pembury Hospital

Grade: II
Date Listed: 11 May 2007
English Heritage Building ID: 503025

OS Grid Reference: TQ6135241354
OS Grid Coordinates: 561352, 141354
Latitude/Longitude: 51.1487, 0.3055

Location: Tonbridge Road, Pembury, Kent TN2 4QG

Locality: Pembury
Local Authority: Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
County: Kent
Country: England
Postcode: TN2 4QG

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Listing Text


1356/1/10014 TONBRIDGE ROAD
11-MAY-07 Chapel at Pembury Hospital

Hospital chapel, originally workhouse chapel. Built 1863-4, architect Robert Wheeler of Brenchley (fl. 1856-1882). Gothic style.

MATERIALS: Polychrome brickwork in English bond, mainly brown brick with red brick bands. Stone window dressings. Gabled tiled roof with terracotta ridge tiles.

PLAN: Rectangular structure with three bay nave with aisles, two south-east porches either side of the one bay chancel and north-west bellcote. It is aligned south-east to north-west.

EXTERIOR: The south-east side has a central gable crowned by a metal cross-shaped saddlestone and large arched window with three trefoil-headed lights surmounted by a central cinquefoil light and two roundels. Recessed on either side are gabled porches with central arched openings flanked by sidelights and arched openings to side walls. Original arched wooden doors behind. The north-east and south-west sides have two small hipped dormers with wooden louvres and paired trefoil-headed windows. The north-west side has a gabled bellcote with trefoil-shaped bell opening, central window with quatrefoil above two trefoil-headed lights and similar single trefoil lights to the aisles.

INTERIOR: The walls are of red brick with black brick bands with a three bay pointed arched arcade with stiff leaf stone capitals, granite columns and deep brick bases. There is a canted roof with tiebeams with quatrefoil mouldings to the spandrels. Most of the wooden pews survive with tiled flooring to the centre and aisles, metal floor grilles and a small octagonal stone font. The south-east window, has probably original glass depicting Christ as The Good Shepherd, flanked by scenes appropriate to a workhouse of a baker giving bread to a pauper and a woman visiting the sick. Other windows have probably been brought in. The north-east central window has two lights, one depicting St Vincent de Paul with two children in early C20 dress, the other St Luke. The north window of the south-west aisle depicts The Good Shepherd and was inserted after 1938 in memory of staff members and surgical staff of Pembury Hospital. The south-west aisle contains two windows considered by the hospital chaplain in 1956 to be by C E Kempe (1837-1907). These comprise The Virgin and Child, dedicated to Edith Mary Myles (1874-1957), the first President of the League of Friends and Headmistress of Tunbridge Wells County Grammar School and the adjoining quatrefoil with an inscription of 1957 in memory of Philip Stewart Browning, a former hospital chaplain. A further stained glass window in the north-east aisle depicting the Baptism of Christ is to the memory of Amelia Scott with an inscription of 1955. There are also a number of small wall plaques to people connected with the workhouse or hospital. These include plaques dedicated to Thomas R McGill, Master of Tonbridge Workhouse between 1866 and 1893, John Francis Carter Braine, surgeon to the radiotherapy department 1939-1953, Ivor Elwyn Joseph Thomas, obstetrician and gynaecologist 1939-1953 and Constantine Lambrinudi, orthopaedic surgeon 1890-1943. The pipe organ to the west end of the eastern aisle is probably original.

HISTORY: The earliest buildings on the Pembury Hospital site were the two buildings of Tonbridge Workhouse dating from 1836. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 prescribed a Church of England chaplain should hold divine service at workhouses every Sunday but in the early days most boards did not set aside a dedicated room for use as a chapel but adapted a dining room for the purpose. From 1859 onwards the "Journal of the Workhouse Visiting Society" enjoined the erection of dedicated chapels which were not usually consecrated but always licenced.

On April 24th 1863 the Rev. Saint of Groombridge Place wrote to the Board of Guardians of the Tonbridge Workhouse asking whether they would consider granting a sum from the Rates for a separate room for Public Worship or a site for a building built by voluntary contributions. The Board agreed to this providing it was under the control of the Guardians and would be used only for divine service. In June, the Committee specified that the building should be detached from the existing buildings, that the site should be as near as possible to the north-western corner of the site, the building range should be parallel with the road, the number to be accomodated should be not less than 300, that the partition for the separation of the sexes should be not less than 6 feet high and be constructed so that the church was divided longitudinally, that the plans should show separate entrances fenced off from the surrounding ground for males and females and the elevation of the building should be as much in harmony as possible with the Fever Ward of the hospital. These resolutions were approved by the Poor Law Board on 14th July 1863 and on 22nd July Robert Wheeler (fl. 1856-1882) of Brenchley (the architect) wrote to say he had taken these alterations into account and re-drawn the plans. These plans were subsequently approved by the Poor Law Board.

A dedicated chapel was duly erected to the north-west of the Tonbridge Workhouse buildings, beside the workhouse laundry, and is shown on the First Edition OS map which was surveyed in 1868. The workhouse function of the chapel is demonstrated from the exterior by the provision of two entrance porches, one for male paupers and one for female paupers, but although the Board of Guardians stipulated an internal screen there is no evidence of this. By the 1860s screens to separate various categories of paupers had gone out of fashion and perhaps it was never built. The cost of the chapel was £650 with seating for 300. The workhouse capacity was 400 but Catholics and Non-conformists were permitted to attend their own place of worship if one was located nearby or to receive visits from their priest or minister.

On 10th September 1887, a contract was drawn up with Messrs. George and Frank Penn in the sum of £3161 12s., for the stripping, boarding, fitting and retiling the chapel and works connected therewith, as well as the taking down of the bell turret. The surveyor was William Oakley.

In 1938 Tonbridge Workhouse became Pembury Hospital and the workhouse chapel became the hospital chapel.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: A little altered Gothic style chapel constructed of good quality materials which is an unusually elaborate example (particularly for its interior) of a purpose-built workhouse chapel, a building type which is becoming increasingly rare. There is additional value for historical associations and memorials particular to its later hospital use.

Board of Governors' Minutes. Centre for Kentish Studies.
Kathryn Morrison "The Workhouse" 1999. p56, 99-102.
Peter Higginbotham's article about Tonbridge Workhouse in
CgMs report TG/DP/8109 February 2007.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

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