The Beaufoy Institute

Restoration of the gates and railings

The Beaufoy Institute was built by Mark Hanbury Beaufoy (d. 1916) in 1907, as a technical school for boys. Beaufoy was part of a prominent vinegar-making family who in 1741 had established a large vinegar business in Vauxhall. The family had begun distilling vinegar after rejecting the distilling of gin, apparently horrified by the damage it caused and its toxic ingredients (sulphuric acid, oil of turpentine, etc). The Beaufoys became major producers of English malt vinegar. The vinegar was used on ships as a ‘fumigator, antiseptic and preservative’ and the Beaufoys acquired a lucrative Navy contract. The factory in Vauxhall held 30,000 gallons of vinegar in 1747, valued at 5d a gallon. The Beaufoys also produced ‘sweets’ or 'mimicked' wines from raisins with added sugar. By 1872 they were advertising cordials and non-alcoholic drinks as well as vinegar and in the 1890s also mineral water.

From the mid 19th century, industrial Vauxhall was crowded with the poor looking for work. Henry Benjamin Beaufoy (d. 1851) built and endowed the Ragged School for Boys and Girls in Newport Street, Lambeth. 50 years later, Mark Hanbury Beaufoy built the Beaufoy Institute to replace the Ragged School after it was pulled down in 1904 to make space for the railway. The foundation stone of the new Institute was laid by Mark’s wife Mildred Scott Beaufoy. It incorporates a relief salvaged from the older building. The Beaufoy vinegar works were bombed in 1941, and the building was requisitioned for use by women manufacturing munitions but it returned to use as a school after the war, before being eventually acquired by Lambeth Council. It was bought by the London Diamond Way Buddhist Centre in 2012.

The building is red brick with a low granite plinth, very handsome terracotta pediments and top cornice, wrought iron railings and gates with wrought iron piers with crown tops. The hall is particularly fine, with excellent plasterwork. Repairs of the interior had been ongoing since 2012.
The iron gates and railings were corroded and the rare and early sliding gates had seized up and were not working. Restoration has included removing, repairing and replacing missing and rusted uprights and replacing the cast iron finials as well as the iron sliding mechanism. The gates and railings were repainted.

In 2020 HOLT printed an illustrated book on the history of the Beaufoy family and their building: ‘Vinegar, Vision and Virtue’, which is available for a donation. Please contact info@heritageoflondon.org

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