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Woburn Chapel

Also known as St Andrew’s Chapel/St Andrew’s Church/St Andrew’s Fine Art Gallery/St Andrew’s Hall/St Andrew’s House/St Andrew’s Temple/Tavistock Chapel/Tavistock Place Chapel/Woburn Episcopal Chapel

Not to be confused with Tavistock Chapel, St Martin-in-the-Fields


It was built by Scott’s Trustees as a proprietary chapel under a lease taken out from the Foundling Hospital in 1801 (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

Its architect was James Peller Malcolm, better known as an illustrator, antiquarian, and topographical draughtsman (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography), and possibly not a great success as an architect; he had to write at least one letter to defend the integrity of his chapel’s style (Gentleman’s Magazine, October 1802)

The Chapel was later described scathingly as “a motley mixture of what is termed modern Gothic — for it is fashionable to call every thing Gothic that has pointed arches, turrets, towers, notches, and niches” (John Britton and Edward Wedlake Brayley, The Beauties of England and Wales, 1816)

Britton lived across the road at no. 10 Tavistock Place at the time (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

It was originally known as Tavistock Chapel or Tavistock Place Chapel

Its first minister, from 1803 to 1808, was Rev. William Betton Champneys (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952); his son W. Weldon Champneys (b. 1807) was later to be vicar of St Pancras and father of the architect Basil Champneys (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

By 1820 it seems to have become known as Woburn Chapel, and its minister was Rev. W. W. Wilcocks (The Times, 17 February 1820)

Rev. Thomas Bagnall Baker was its minister from 1836 to 1848 (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952); his death in 1860 left his family without any means of support, occasioning the publication of an appeal on their behalf (The Times, 23 June 1860)

According to one contemporary, Baker was suspended by the Bishop of London for adopting High Church practices at the chapel, and thereafter declined into poverty, losing the chapel, and ending up in a lunatic asylum (Samuel Palmer, St Pancras: Being Antiquarian, Topographical, and Biographical Memoranda, 1870)

In 1850 the minister was Rev. P. B. Power (The Times, 2 September 1850), and by 1859 it was Rev. Charles Thomas Woods (The Times, 17 May 1859, 20 January 1860)

In 1861 its minister was the controversial preacher Rev. Treshem “Trash’em” D. Gregg (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; The Times, 9 February 1861, 15 April 1861)

In 1867 its minister Joseph Mould was one of the signatories of W. Weldon Champneys’s protest for Protestantism (The Times, 8 January 1867), while by 1872 the minister was Rev. Dr Samuel Franklin Hiron (The Times, 28 February 1872)

In 1876, its minister was Rev. W. Bentley; his wife gave birth to their son in the “Vicarage” there (The Times, 19 January 1876)

In 1878, school premises said to be connected to the chapel and bringing in a ground rent of £15 per annum were advertised for sale (The Times, 13 April 1878)

Archdeacon Charles Gordon Cumming Dunbar was the incumbent from December 1877 to June 1880 (A/FH/A/16/002/010/001, London Metropolitan Archives)

During this time, the Chapel acquired a reputation for unholy goings-on, especially after Dunbar’s wife Edith petitioned for a separation in early 1881, alleging his adultery in 1878 with several women actually on the chapel premises, and calling witnesses to alleged late-night drinking sessions there (The Times, 24 February 1881)

Her petition was dismissed; one of her witnesses, the chapel’s verger William Boynett, was subsequently tried for perjury but eventually acquitted (The Times, 2 April 1881; 8 April 1881; 6 May 1881; 7 May 1881)

The Times commented that it was the chapel which was the real “centre of interest” in the case: “Ecclesiastical in its name and origin, it has not served of late for strictly ecclesiastical uses...there is a general business air about the place which not even the devotion of the female worshippers can clear away” (The Times, 28 February 1881)

Dunbar had been ordained by the Bishop of Ceylon, but his license to preach had been revoked by the Bishop of London in January 1880, and he had been prohibited from preaching in London, a ban which he clearly ignored

In March 1882 there was another an unfortunate incident at the chapel (by now known also as St Andrew’s Hall), when John Garrett Elliott obtained the key to the premises on a Friday and was allowed to keep it all weekend, allegedly to allow friends to inspect it in connection with a club he was thinking of forming (The Times, 12 May 1882)

Instead, he opened it for a prize-fight on 27 March, pitting Henry “Sugar” Goodson against John “Old ’un” Hicks, with an audience who came mostly from the East End, and charging a guinea for admission at a turnstile (The Times, 12 May 1882)

The Times reported that “[a] portion of the tesselated pavement had been taken up to enable some stakes to be fixed and a 24-ft rope ring had been so formed” (The Times, 12 May 1882)

The Foundling Hospital’s Secretary, W. S. Wintle, wrote to The Times as follows: “As various accounts have appeared in the public papers of a disgraceful occurrence in St Andrew’s Chapel, Tavistock-place, on the 27th inst., will you permit me, on behalf of the Governors of the Foundling Hospital, who are the owners of the ground on which the chapel stands, to give the following explanation?

“The chapel is comprised with other property in a lease from the Governors of the Foundling Hospital to James Burton, dated the 30th of December, 1801, at a rent of £20 per annum. This lease expires Lady Day, 1900, and contains a covenant “that he, the said lessee, his executors, administrators, or assigns will not during the said term convert, use, or occupy, nor suffer to be converted, used, or occupied, the said demised premises or any part thereof into or for any shop, warehouse, or other place for carrying on any trade, nor suffer any open or public show of business therein without the previous consent in writing of the said lessors, their successors, or assigns, or any of their other tenants. And also that the said lessee, his executors, administrators, or assigns, shall not nor will at any time during the said term permit or suffer any clergyman or person to officiate in the said chapel or perform public divine service therein, but such as shall be a regular clergyman of the Church of England.”

“Up to a recent period the chapel has been occupied in accordance with this covenant, but latterly it has become vacant, and is so at present.

“The Governors of the Hospital have received several applications to waive the covenant above referred to, in order that the chapel, which has never been consecrated, might be applied to other purposes, but they have always declined to accede to such applications, insisting upon the performance of the covenant in question.

“As regards the occurrence above alluded to, the Governors of the Hospital have made inquiries of the present holders of the lease, and are informed that Elliott borrowed the keys for the ostensible purpose of showing the place to an intending purchaser or tenant, and the lessee further states that he has now threatened proceedings against the former for the deception which was practised by him.

“I need not add that the Governors of the Hospital are most desirous of doing what they can to prevent anything like a desecration of the chapel, much more a recurrence of such disgraceful proceedings as those in question.”

(The Times, 6 April 1882)

In 1882, The Times reported the chapel’s reopening on 21 May “with a full ritualistic service and the performance of an oratorio, under the auspices of its former minister, Archdeacon Dunbar” (The Times, 22 May 1882)

The Foundling Hospital governors were determined that Dunbar should not again preach in their chapel; one newspaper commented that “for the present, at any rate, St Andrew’s Chapel will be as little available for choral services as for glove fights” (Observer, 30 July 1882)

When other attempts failed, the Foundling Hospital governors went to the High Court in November 1882 to stop Dunbar preaching there; the action was successful, and Dunbar was also ordered to pay the Foundling Hospital’s legal costs of £137 3s 8d, although he ignored this order (letter from Foundling Hospital solicitor Simpson to secretary W. S. Wintle, 21 March 1883, A/FH/A/16/002/010/01, London Metropolitan Archives)

By late 1882, Dunbar had moved on, this time permanently, and in around June 1884, the Mackessack Brothers were allowed to take a lease on the chapel as additional premises for their furniture business, which they had been running since 1880 from Phoenix Place, near Gray’s Inn Road (The Times, 14 August 1886)

During their tenure, the building continued to be known as Woburn Chapel but was also called St Andrew’s Church and St Andrew’s Fine Art Gallery (The Times, 25 November 1886)

In January 1885, the roof caught fire, and the building was seriously damaged (The Times, 9 January 1885)

The Mackessacks went bankrupt in 1886, attributing this chiefly to the expense of taking on the Tavistock Place premises (The Times, 14 August 1886)

However, they seem to have still been trading on the premises in 1898, at the time of the Salvation Catholic Church cycle school fraud case; one “John Mackerseck”, cabinet maker, of “St Andrew’s House”, Tavistock Place, had rented rooms to the accused (The Times, 14 July 1898)

This case involved one “Samuel Johanni Baptisti Stanhope”, also known as “Captain Stanhope” of the Salvation Catholic Church, whose real name was apparently Samuel Lee (The Times, 6 August 1898)

He was found guilty of obtaining six bicycles by false pretences in June 1898, having claimed that he had a lease of St Andrew’s Temple in Tavistock Place and was going to open the Royal Empire Cycle School there in connection with the Salvation Catholic Church (The Times, 6 August 1898)

An earlier report in The Times said that “Stanhope” had rented rooms from John Mackerseck on the upper floor of the premises for his “Salvation Army Catholic Church”, but had defaulted on the rent (The Times, 14 July 1898

There was at the time a cycle school on the ground floor, but this was nothing to do with “Stanhope” (The Times, 14 July 1898)

The Chapel was finally demolished in 1900 and flats built on the site

What was reforming about it?

It was associated with a series of increasingly controversial preachers, and then had a chequered second career as a place of entertainment and business

Where in Bloomsbury

It was located in Tavistock Place, on the north side, between nos 31 and 32

Website of current institution

It no longer exists

Books about it

None found


Its visitation return from 1858 is held in Lambeth Palace Library, ref. Tait 440/326; details are available via Access to Archives (opens in new window)

A letter about the Chapel from Rev. Tresham Gregg in 1861 is also held in Lambeth Palace Library, ref. Tait 126 ff 327-32; details are available via Access to Archives (opens in new window)

A plan for a building lease of the chapel site, together with 31 and 32 Tavistock Place, is part of the Foundling Hospital collection at London Metropolitan Archives, ref. A/FH/A/16/031/037/002; details are available via Access to Archives (opens in new window)

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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