In this new series, we’ll be exploring some of London’s secrets, uncovering buildings, eateries, exhibitions and artworks that deserve more attention than they actually get. Most of the places we’ll feature won’t take up too much of your time, but are certainly worth visiting should you end up in their vicinity.
The Fitzrovia Chapel
The Fitzrovia Chapel is a curious place. From the outside, the most notable thing about it is its location. Surrounded on all four sides by a brand new development of flats, offices and cafes, it actually looks rather out of place. This oddness though only serves to spark the curiosity of those passing by. What is this building and what is it doing here?
The story of how in ended up this way is an interesting one. The chapel was originally a part of the Middlesex Hospital which stood on the same site. In 2008, having been closed for 3 years, the hospital was demolished, though thanks to its listed status, the chapel remained standing. The site was earmarked for development, but plans fell through as a result of the financial crisis which lead to the chapel standing dormant, on stilts for five years. It wasn’t until 2013 until developers returned to the site. Thankfully for the chapel, the plans were to not only incorporate the chapel into the development but to also spend £3 million restoring it to its former glory.
From the outside, the chapel is a compact and unassuming affair. Rather than stone, humble red brick has been used in its construction. Inside though, things couldn’t be more different. Marble and colourful mosaics reign supreme in breathtaking Italian-inspired style.
It’s the use of marble that you first notice as your enter the chapel. The flooring, the walls, the pillars and even the font are carved from it. There are in fact 17 different types in use and the differing colours are used to great effect.
Very soon after noting the marble, your gaze will be immediately drawn to the gold-leaf ceiling mosaic. The roof was in very poor condition when developers took over the site in 2013, so to see the ceiling in all of its shimmering, intricate detail today is proof to the restoration team’s marvelous work.
My favourite section of the chapel was the baptistery, where the mosaics are particularly splendid. Gold-leafed tiles frame a striking blue gradient, whilst narrow stained glass windows let in just the right amount of light.
I found the best way of enjoying the Chapel is to simply stand still in silence and soak it in. There aren’t many spots in central London that are as peaceful and beautiful as this, so standing in reverence is not only appropriate but ideal if you want to get the best out of your visit.
How to Visit & Opening Hours
The Fitzrovia Chapel is a 4 minute walk from Goodge Street Underground station and a 9 minute walk from Oxford Circus station. Fitzroy Place, where the chapel is located, has pedestrian access via Mortimer Street, Riding House Street and Cleveland Street.
The chapel is open to the public on Wednesdays only between 11am and 4pm.
For the very latest information, visit the official Fitzrovia Chapel website.
Have you found any secret places in London that you think we should write about? Let us know in the comments section below.