Survey of London: Volume 21, the Parish of St Pancras Part 3: Tottenham Court Road and Neighbourhood. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1949.
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LVIII—TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD (West Side)
The old southern boundary of the parish was about three houses south of the junction of Hanway Street with Tottenham Court Road. The houses on the west side of the road, which are shown in Tallis's View, have now been mostly rebuilt or altered, and the side streets, the openings to which alone reproduce the old arrangement, have, several of them, changed their names. The lower end of the road, a little south of Hanway Street, formed part of Bozier's Court, in the parish of St. Anne's, Soho, where a block of buildings, now removed, stood in the roadway. The numbering of the houses starts in Tallis's View, north of Bozier's Court, and Hanway Street comes between Nos. 5 and 6. Danks' Floor Cloth and Carpet Warehouse (No. 9) is chosen by Tallis for one of his vignettes, in which he shows the building in detail. Tudor Place, Stephen Street and Percy Street are shown and at the end of Windmill Street can be seen the elevation of Percy Chapel. Between this and Goodge Street a small alley, called Kirkman's Place, appears, and then after Chapel Street comes Whitfield Chapel and Burial Ground with its iron railings and two entrance gates.
George Whitefield (1714–1770), the famous evangelical preacher obtained a lease of the site for his chapel in Tottenham Court Road from Francis and William Goodge for 7 years from 1756. (fn. 68) It lay in the northeast corner of Crab Tree and Walnut Tree Fields, known as the Little Sea, from the large pond which is shown on Rocque's Map just south of Paradise Row.
Whitefield had been driven to seek a place where he would be free
from the opposition encountered from the vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
at the Long Acre Chapel where he had been minister, and he had no difficulty
in obtaining support for his project from his friends and admirers, including
the Countess of Huntingdon, to whom he was chaplain. The chapel was
built, and probably designed, by Matthew Pearce (see his memorial, p. 71)
and the foundation stone was laid in May, 1756, in the presence of—
"Matthew Pearce, Esq., Architect.
Mr. Geo. Whitefield, the Minister.
Rev. Thos. Gibbon, D.D.
Rev. Benj. Grosvenor, D.D.
Rev. Andrew Gifford, D.D.
Assistant Librarian of the British Museum.
Many Ministers in procession.
Attending Gentlemen." (fn. 69)
The chapel, which was opened for public worship in November of the same year, is described as a square brick building with the internal dimensions of 70 feet. In the winter of 1759–60 it was enlarged towards the east, facing Tottenham Court Road, by an extensive projection, part of an octagon in plan, which gave the building a singular, but not unimpressive, appearance. From the engraved views of the chapel it would appear that the roof of the earlier structure terminated in a bell-cote, shaped like a cupola. The angles of the front building had slightly projecting piers, forming pilasters which reached a plain parapet, behind which the roof was hipped back from each angle. The eastern face, which was wider than those looking N.E. and S.E., had an applied façade of four pilasters carrying an entablature and pediment. The entrance, under a semicircular arch, was centrally placed with a clock above it. Two windows, one above each other, occupied the space between the side pilasters. The receding faces of the octagon had each three windows, square below, arched in the centre, and circular above. When completed it was one of the largest non-conformist chapels so far built. (Plates 24 and 25)
Whitefield died in America, at Boston in 1770, and the Rev. John Wesley preached his memorial sermon on the 30th of November in the chapel which was hung with black for six weeks. The inscriptions on the joint memorial tablet to Whitefield and to his wife, who had died in 1768, are given later. According to Samuel Palmer, (fn. 70) the Rev. Torial Joss succeeded Whitefield as minister. The inscription on his memorial (see below) records that "he successfully laboured in this Church of Christ and its connections, 32 years," and since he died in 1797, it would seem that he had deputised for Whitefield before the latter's death. The Rev. J. Green appears to have shared his labours, since his memorial tablet (he died in 1774) says he was "sometime Minister of this Chapel." Mr. Joss was followed by the Rev. Joel Abraham Knight, and subsequently the Rev. Matthew Wilks and the Rev. John Hyatt officiated here, for a time, as co-pastors.
The original lease expired in 1827 and the chapel was then closed and the whole property was put up for sale. Contemporary newspaper reports of the auction held at the Mart on 21st September, 1827, are preserved in the Heal Collection at the St. Pancras Library. The property included the chapel, vestry rooms, almshouses, minister's house and two small lodges beside the extensive burial ground, which was stated to be eligible building land. After bidding had reached £19,800 it was withdrawn and shortly afterwards the freehold was purchased by the Trustees.
The chapel was thereupon reconditioned at an expenditure of £6,000. The exterior was covered with stucco and adorned with pilasters. The interior was described as "neat and in good taste, the cupola being supported by twelve columns." It measured 127 by 70 feet with a height to the summit of the dome of 114 feet. The founder's pulpit was veneered with mahogany. The chapel seated from 3,000 to 4,000 people. The vestry contained a bust of Whitefield and portraits of subsequent ministers. The chapel was re-opened for services on 27th October, 1831, under the ministration of the Rev. John Campbell who, in 1834, had a serious difference with the Trustees about the exclusion of a member of the congregation.
In 1853 the burial ground was closed (see below) and the minister, the Rev. Joseph Wilberforce Richardson, who had for a while been joint pastor with Mr. Campbell, attempted to lease part of it for building. In 1856, in celebration of its centenary, the chapel was repaired and it was reopened on 25th May when Mr. Richardson delivered an address describing the history of the building. On 23rd February in the following year it was almost wholly destroyed by fire. The property was then bought by the London Congregational Building Society who put up a new building, designed by John Tarring, architect, and erected by Thomas Richards, builder, of Pimlico. The main light to the building was from the dome, 126 feet high, and the chapel now measured 136 by 80 feet. A plan from the Middlesex Land Register (1862/19/728) is reproduced here. The chapel was re-opened by the minister, the Rev. James Wimsett Boulding. When Samuel Palmer issued his volume on St. Pancras (1870) the minister was the Rev. Llewelyn David Bevan.
In 1889 the foundations of the building began to give way and the
chapel was closed. The trouble was probably due to the numerous burials
within the building which disturbed the filling to the pond on the site of
which it had been erected. The Rev. J. Jackson Wray, then minister, started
a scheme for rebuilding, but in 1891 he had to resign through ill-health and
died the following year. Under his successor the Rev. George A. Suttle
(appointed 1894) the services were carried on in a temporary iron structure,
and in 1898 the foundation stone of the new building (incorporating the
original foundation stone) was laid. The full inscription read—
THIS CHAPEL WAS
ERECTED BY THE REVD
MR GEORGE WHITFIELD
ANNO DOMINI MDCCLVI
THE ABOVE STONE WAS LAID IN 1766 BY THE
REVD GEORGE WHITFIELD M.A.
AND WAS RELAID BY THE
REV. JOSEPH PARKER D. D.
OF THE CITY TEMPLE LONDON
21ST OCTOBER 1898
The new building, which included a chapel designed to seat 1,200 people, and beneath it a hall, named after the Rev. Augustus Toplady (for whose memorial see below), was opened in November, 1899. The building was totally destroyed by a flying-bomb, 25th March, 1945.
The inscriptions on the memorial tablets within the chapel are given by F. T. Cansick. (fn. 71) Those to the founder and his wife and to the sculptor, John Bacon, are extracted and printed here. A list of the other tablets follows. (fn. n1)
ELIZABETH (1768) and GEORGE WHITEFIELD (fn. n2) (1770)
The memorial, of which Cansick gives an engraving, had apparently a white marble inscription tablet within a frame of dark marble, with a semicircular head. Above the key-block in the arch was a carved open book with the 35th and 36th verses of the 12th Chapter of St. Luke. A moulded shelf below was carried on two console corbels.
of MRS ELIZABETH WHITEFIELD
who after upwards of thirty years strong
and frequent manifestations of a Redeemer's
love, and as strong and frequent strugglings
with the buffettings of Satan, bodily sicknesses,
and the remains of indwelling Sin, finished
Her Course with Joy, Aug.st 9th Anno Domini 1768.
Also to the Memory
Of the Reverend MR GEORGE WHITEFIELD
A.M. Late Chaplain to the Right Honourable
the Countess of Huntingdon, whose Soul made
meet for Glory, was taken to Immanuel's Bosom
on the 30th of Sept.r. 1770, and whose Body now lies
in the silent Grave at NEW BURY PORT near
BOSTON in NEW ENGLAND, there deposited
in Sure and certain hope of a joyful Resurrection
to eternal Life and Glory.
He was a Man eminent for Piety, of
an humane, benevolent and charitable
Disposition; his Zeal in the Cause of GOD
was singular, his Labours indefatigable,
and his Success in preaching the Gospel
remarkable and astonishing. He departed
this Life in the 56th Year of his Age.
An inscribed tablet under the North Gallery.
Near this Place lies
JOHN BACON, R.A.,
Who Died Aug. 7th, 1799;
aged 59 years;
The following Inscription
For this Tablets:—
What I was as an Artist
seemed to me
of some Importance
While I lived;
What I really was,
as a Believer in Christ Jesus,
is the Only Thing
of Importance to me now!
REV.? AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY (1778), Vicar of Broad Hembury, Devon and author of the hymn "Rock of Ages, cleft for me." At the time of his death he was preacher at Orange Street Chapel, Leicester Square.
WILLOUGHBY JAMES BURSLEM (1783), son of Willoughby James Burslem of Lambeth and Sarah his wife. Also two infants, SAMUEL and MARIA and their father WILOUGHBY JAMES BURSLEM (1802), late Captain in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.
MARGARET SMITH (1815), "Spinster, of John Street, formerly of Queen Street, Brompton . . . and for many years attached to the Household of H.R.H. Princess Amelia, second daughter of H.M. George the III."
The Burial Ground
Whitefield leased enough land in 1755 to provide his chapel with a burial ground. Disappointed in his desire to have the ground consecrated by the Bishop of London he is said to have obtained several cartloads of soil from the churchyard of St. Christopher-le-Stocks, which was being converted into a garden for the Bank of England, and spread them over the surface. From the account of the ground in St. Pancras Open Spaces and Disused Burial Grounds (1902) we learn that the burial ground was closed in 1853, it having been in use from 1756 with an interval of eight years (1823–1831). In the 18th-century considerable trouble occurred through the practice of body-snatching. A serious situation arose when the Rev. J. W. Richardson endeavoured to dispose of part of the ground for building purposes about the year 1856. Owners of graves applied for an injunction against any disturbance of the ground and after many unseemly conflicts between the excavation contractors and the inhabitants of the neighbourhood the Master of the Rolls made a perpetual injunction. The plan of the site in the Middlesex Land Register (see p. 69) shows parts of the ground separated from the rest, evidently with the idea of development, and efforts were still being made to clear the graveyard until in the eighties of the last century the place became again the scene of constant rioting and disorder. Eventually authority was obtained to end the scandal, and the late Sir Julian Goldsmid, Member of Parliament for the division, offered to lay the ground out at his own expense. As a result in February, 1895, it was opened as a public garden by Sir John Hutton, Chairman of the London County Council, to whose care the upkeep of the ground was entrusted. Cansick (fn. 72) gives the inscriptions on four graves, namely, Roger Griffith (178–), Amy Cope (1789), William Price (1835) and George Goddard (1835).
The following list has been compiled from various sources—
George Whitefield. 1756 until his death in 1770.
J. Green, assistant to Whitfield, died 1774.
Torial Joss. Died 1797.
Joel Abraham Knight. Born at Hull 1754, died 1808.
Matthew Wilks. Died 1829.
John Hyatt. Born Sherborne, Dorset, 1767. After ministering at Mere, Wilts (1798), and Frome, Somerset (1800), he became co-pastor with Matthew Wilks at Whitefield Chapel and the Tabernacle, Moorfields, until his death in 1826.
John Campbell. Born Forfar, 1794. Had joint charge of this Chapel and Moorfields for 20 years. Resigned to engage in literary work and wrote a life of George Whitefield. He died in 1867.
John Wilberforce Richardson was for some time co-pastor with John Campbell. Gave address at re-opening, 1856.
James Wimsett Boulding. Re-opening address after fire, 1857.
J. Jackson Wray. Resigned 1891.
George A. Suttle. Appointed 1894.
Charles Silvester Horne. 1903–1914.