|LOST HOSPITALS OF LONDON|
French Protestant Hospital
Victoria Park Road, South Hackney, E9 7HD
|1718 - 1949
The French Protestant Hospital had been established in 1718 in Bath Street, off City Road, as an almshouse for the relief of poor, distressed Huguenots. The Hospital was greatly supported by the wealthier Huguenots, who were proud that none of their people would be forced to beg; members of the community took care of those who were poor, elderly, frail, mentally disturbed or chronically ill.
The Hospital had been initiated by the gift of £1,000 towards the founding of such an institution by Jacques de Gastigny, who had died in 1708. The money was invested and, as successive benefactions were added, the fund grew.
In 1716 a plot of land in a bye-lane (now Bath Street) off Old Street was purchased. Some adjoining land was leased from the City of London to form a site of some 4 acres on which to build the almshouse.
The Hospital opened in November 1718 with 80 beds. Over the years more buildings were added to the site. By 1760 some 234 inmates were accommodated at what was affectionately known as La Providence.
However, by the middle of the 19th century, the buildings had become greatly dilapidated and were in urgent need of repair. The Directors of the Hospital decided it would be simpler to rebuild the institution somewhere else. A new site was sought and, in 1862, three acres of land in South Hackney were purchased for £3,600.
The new French Protestant Hospital opened in June 1865. Built in a kind of Gothic style, it resembled a small French chateau. It had accommodation for 40 women and 20 men, and was staffed by a Steward and his wife, together with nurses and servants. As well as spacious Day Rooms, there were a Library and an apsidal chapel.
Inmates were encouraged not to be idle but to make themselves useful by helping towards the running of the institution.
In 1887, to mark her Jubilee, Queen Victoria was presented with a black silk dress made by 12 female inmates of the Hospital, all weavers.
In 1934 the Hospital was threatened with a compulsory purchase order by the LCC, but WW2 intervened. In 1941 the inmates were evacuated and the building requisitioned. It then became a Day Nursery for mothers working for the war effort.
During the war the building was damaged by bombs.
After the war, because of the difficulty of regaining repossession of the property and the threatened compulsory purchase order, the Directors of the Hospital decided to buy a large country house in Sussex and move the almshouse there.
In 1947 Compton's Lea, near Horsham, a large Victorian house in 10 acres of land, was purchased.
The Hospital closed in 1949.
Present status (March 2009)
The South Hackney building was taken over by St Victoire's Convent School in 1949. In 1973 it became an annexe for the Lower School of the Cardinal Pole Catholic School (the Upper School was in Kenworthy Road).
The original Hospital buildings in Bath Street (off Old Street) have been demolished. Their site is now occupied by St Luke's C of E Primary School.
After its move to Compton's Lea (now demolished), the Hospital became financially inviable as occupancy was low. In April 1956 the Directors decided to convert Theobald Square - a square of small early Victorian terraced houses off Rochester High Street in Kent - into almshouses for the elderly. The first 19 apartments opened in September 1959. Theobald Square was officially renamed La Providence. The houses are Grade II listed.
Update: March 2015
In 2012 both parts of St Victoire's Convent School moved to a new £26m building in Morning Lane. In 2014 the former Hospital building became the Mossbourne Academy.
|N.B. Photographs obtained in March 2009
The main gate with signage for the Cardinal Pole R.C. School (Annexe).
The Lodge (above and below). Part of the old wall has been replaced by railings.
The former Hospital building (above and below) is now Grade II listed.
The main entrance.
A fleur-de-lys stonework decoration above a window.
A stone plaque above a doorway depicts a heraldic shield with three lions passant gardant for England and three fleur-de-lys for France (above and below).
The School extension on the corner of Victoria Park Road and Lammas Road.
A view of the buildings seen from across Well Street Common.
29th March 2015)
Gwynne R 1985 England's 'first refugees'. History Today 35 (5), 25-26.
Murdoch T, Vigne R 2009 The French Hospital: Its Huguenot History and Collections. Cambridge, John Adamson.
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