The chapel is the only building that remains from the old Farnborough Hospital, which developed from the Workhouse.  The Workhouse dates from the 1840s and opened in 1846, but the chapel was not built until some twenty years later.

This article below is taken from the April 1993 edition of the magazine of the Bromley Borough Local History Society and is reproduced here with the permission of the Society. 
See also Primrose Centre

Farnborough Hospital Chapel

With plans afoot to build one Large central hospital for the London Borough of Bromley, all of Bromley’s existing hospitals are clearly under threat, including the former workhouse buildings at Locksbottom. These are not even on Bromleys local list for preservation although, as I am informed, the chapel would not be demolished.

The Chapel today, in use as the Primrose Centre, see below

Be that as it may, in December 1990 - with the blessing of the Chaplain, Rev. Neil Bunker - Peter Francis took a series of photographs.. We needed a date of construction, but Mr. Bunker’s records go back no further than a Baptism Register commencing In 1884, though the workhouse itself opened in 1846.   It had been suggested that stylistically the 1880s were indicated. So a search was begun in the records in Bromley Library at 1880 - and immediately found that the roof was then in need of repair. Obviously the building had then been up for some time. We are fortunate that Bromley Union records not only survive but have been returned after a sojourn in Kent Archives Office.

Working back through the Minutes of the Guardians, I found that a design for ‘a new chapel’ had been submitted as early as Noveber 1861, and a site ‘near the road, where it stands today, agreed at the beginning of 1862. Building must have soon begun, for in the following September Bromley received a gift of ‘a 'Church Service’ from the S.P.C.K., by which I assume is meant service books, and in October there was some correspondence about the services to be held.

At the end of the year is a note that Insurance on the brick and tile building would amount to £300 plus £50 for fittings, and that is all. No mention of an opening or blessing (a dedication would not be appropriate) or even of the first service, or of Christmas.

On turning to the Bromley Record, in March 1862, we learn of the proposal to ‘build a chapel for the use of the inmates of Bromley Workhouse, the present practice of employing the dining hall for services has been found objectionable in many respects - the sum required for building a decent but plain chapel is, we hear, £550’. A subscribers’ list was begun. However, by June only a few Bromley residents, and those ‘chiefly the wealthiest’, had subscribed. Fortunately the other parishes in the Union were more forthcoming, and the Record was able to report that this ‘excellent and necessary work has, we learn, been commenced, and will shortly be roofed in. It is a plain unpretending structure, but has all the appearance of a building set apart for devine worship.’

By August the roof was going on and it would soon be ready. Another £60 or £70 had to be found to add a Vestry and for ‘measures adopted to ensure ventilation and warming the building, which, under the special circumstances of the case, were of more than usual importance.’ Seats were put in at the beginning of October and the chapel would (again!) soon be ready. Here too, nothing about an opening service.

Hoping that the occasion might have figured in the Diocesan ‘uniment Book I wrote to the Diocesan Registry, without any luck. Presumably all that happened was, one Sunday that winter the inhabitants of that ‘grim grey house’ (as the Editor of the Record always referred to it) were told, no more services in the dining hall - everybody out to the new chapel. It is to be hoped they appreciated their new amenity, and the Chaplain of the day made as full a use of it as the present incumbent obviously does.

P. Knowiden 1992


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