Caroline Gardens Chapel

Restoration of the portico steps

The chapel of the Licensed Victuallers’ Asylum, now known as Caroline Gardens Chapel, was built as part of a large set of almshouses for the support of publicans ‘advanced in age and suffering from infirmity…and no longer capable of supporting themselves’. Construction began in 1827 on a large plot of land in Camberwell, and continued until 1850 when the chapel was built in the centre of the almshouse crescent. By 1866, the site had 170 separate dwellings, a chapel, chaplain’s residence, library, board and court room. The architect was the little-known Henry Rose, who worked mostly in Southwark.

The chapel is the centrepiece of the almshouses. It received a direct hit from a bomb in WWII, losing its roof. After the war, it was given a temporary roof and remained locked up until 2010. The interior is still blackened with soot. Most of the memorial tablets survived as these had been boxed in before the bombing. However, the furnishings were lost and the stained glass, in particular the memorial window to William George Drew d. 1867, badly damaged. The memorial window believed to be by Cox & Sons, and depicts Jesus giving bread to a beggar.

Beneath the window is a memorial tablet, recording how ‘this memorial window was raised by a few of many surviving friends, who can appreciate true worth and genuine philanthropy, to the memory of WILLIAM GEORGE DREW Esq, late of Pimm’s Park, Edmonton, who died suddenly, 27th April 1867, in the 54th year of his age.’

William G Drew was a biscuit maker for the public house trade. He founded Drew & Sons in Shadwell in 1852. His obituary noted his charitable interests and that he was ‘a man of remarkable energy and enterprise’. His family continued the business and by 1877 Drew & Sons was using steam-powered machinery to produce over 100 different varieties of biscuit. After the bomb damage, the memorial window commemorating Drew was left heavily bowed with broken fragments and had had to be removed from the chapel into storage. The window has been carefully repaired by Chapel Studio glass restorers using an engraving of the original and reinstated in the chapel.

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