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Emmanuel Hospital, James Street, Westminster, unexecuted designs for a chapel, c1778 (10)

Emmanuel Hospital, also known as Lady Dacre’s Almshouses, was founded in 1601 at the bequest of Anne Fiennes, wife of Gregory Fiennes, 10th Baron Dacre (1539-1594). Lady Dacre was the only daughter of Sir Richard Sackville (d. 1566) and his wife Winifred (d. 1586), the daughter of Sir John Brydges of London. Anne, a courtier and cousin of Elizabeth I, was married to Gregory Fiennes in 1558, bringing a substantial dowry to the marriage. The couple had only one daughter who died when she was young. Lord and Lady Dacre were influential within the Elizabethan court and established their principal home in Westminster.

Following the death of Lord Dacre on 25 September 1594 Lady Dacre, whose own health was failing, wrote a substantial will in December 1594. It documents a significant number of legacies to friends and servants, including a gift of a £300 jewel to the Queen. In total the bequests amounted to over £3000. In particular the will expressed the desire of Lord and Lady Dacre for the establishment of a hospital for the poor of Westminster. Lady Anne was particularly concerned that her ‘hospital’ should provide education for children (ten boys and ten girls), alongside relief for ‘aged people’. She wished there to be built ‘a neat and Convenient house, with room of habitation for twenty poor folk and twenty poor children’ and it was to be named ‘Emmanuel Hospital’.

Lady Anne died at her home in Chelsea on 14 May 1595. She was buried beside her husband in a monumental tomb in More Chapel, Chelsea.

In 1601, six years after her death, a charter was obtained from Elizabeth I, which ordained ‘the house in Tuttle Fields a hospital for the poor, under the name of Emmanuel Hospital’. The charter appointed the Lord Mayor and aldermen as governors of the hospital in perpetuity, but it also granted significant management to the people of the almshouses who were to act as ‘a body Corporate of themselves for ever’. In 1794 an Act of Parliament repealed this section of the charter, handing sole control to the aldermen who were to act as the governing body.

Lady Anne had endowed her hospital with an estate in Brandesburton, Yorkshire, which was subsequently overseen by the aldermen of London, who proved popular landlords. Children from Brandesburton were accepted into the Emanuel’s associated school along with children from Westminster, Hayes, Chelsea and the City of London.

In the early eighteenth century the Hospital was rebuilt, the original buildings having become ‘decayed’. In 1735 the first clerical master was appointed for the education of the children, Lady Dacre having originally specified that the teaching and guidance was to be undertaken by the resident pensioners. One of the later masters of the hospital school was William Beloe, Assistant Librarian to the British Museum, famed for his translation of Herodotus.

The pension for the elderly inhabitants of Emmanuel almshouses was originally set at £5 per annum, which was increased over time. In 1794 the addition of twenty chaldrons of coals was included with the pension, and by 1878 it was set at £20 per annum.

There is a reference to the construction of a chapel, said to have been built in the mid-eighteenth century. In 1846 the Chapel was extended with a new annex introduced on the west side. The early seventeenth-century pulpit was said to have been elaborately carved from oak and at the north end of the Chapel a model of Lady Dacre’s tomb was set within an arch.

Adam’s 1778 scheme for the Chapel at Emmanuel Hospital possibly relates to a later phase of construction when alterations may have been under consideration. The Chapel is designed in the rectangular form which King compares to Adam’s contemporary scheme for the Adelphi Chapel. The inclusion of archways set either side of the building provides carriage access to a courtyard at the rear. This hints at the chapel’s role within the wider community. Like the Lock Hospital Chapel, for which Adam also provided designs, it is likely that the Emmanuel Chapel provided a source of revenue to the charity as a whole.

By 1821 the number of children accepted to the school had doubled from twenty to forty children, with new school buildings erected in 1845. An account from 1878 records that all children admitted were fed, clothed, sheltered and educated for free.

In 1873 an overhaul of charity schools saw the separation of the education of the children of Emanuel from the almshouse branch of the charity. A union of several schools saw the formation of The United Westminster and Grey Coat Foundation, an educational charity, with Westminster City School subsequently established at the site of the original hospital. A further establishment opened at a new site in Wandsworth in January 1883, named the Emmanuel School. Both schools are still in operation today.

In 1886 the Emmanuel almshouses were photographed for posterity as the Corporation of London had announced plans for their demolition. A contemporary account by Alfred Marks notes them to be ‘the most picturesque of London almshouses’. What remained of Emmanuel Hospital was demolished in 1894 and was replaced with St James’s Court, Buckingham Gate.

E. Walford, ‘Westminster: Tothill Fields and neighbourhood’, Old and New London: Volume 4, 1878, pp. 14-26; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index p. 59; D. King, The complete works of Robert and James Adam & unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 58, 66; ‘Emmanuel Hospital, Westminster, c1886’, www.royalacademy .org.uk; ‘Emanuel Hospital, Westminster’, www.bl.uk; ‘Emanuel Hospital, James Street, Westminster, London’, www.architecture.com; ‘Foundation’, www.wcsch.com; ‘History of Emanuel’, www.emanuel.org.uk; J. Broadway, ‘Fiennes (nee Sackville, Anne, Lady Dacre, d. 1595’, September 2004, www.oxforddnb.com (accessed March 2021)

Anna McAlaney, 2021
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