|The House of St Barnabas-in-Soho||Westminster|
The House of Charity, later called the House of St Barnabas-in-Soho, was established in 1846 as one of the first hostels in London. From 1862 it occupied No 1 Greek Street, a fine C18th house, and provided temporary accommodation for homeless people. Its private chapel was built in 1862-5. The work of the charity has continued to this day, although the house is no longer residential. The small courtyard garden, enclosed on two sides by the house and chapel, has paved areas, some flower beds and a number of mature trees, including a mulberry under which Charles Dickens may have sat in 1859 to plan 'A Tale of Two Cities', nearby Manette Street recalling his character, Dr Manette.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2009
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The Soho area was largely developed from the late C17th onwards as London expanded following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the re-building that followed the Great Fire of London. The area east of Wardour Street lay in the parish of St Anne Soho (q.v.) and was known as Soho Fields, a single estate then owned by the Earl of St Albans until 1734, and thereafter by the Earl of Portland. The streets of the estate were laid out by the mid C18th with Soho Square (q.v.) as the main focus. Grander houses were generally built near the square and it remained a fashionable residential area well into the C18th, although its wealthier inhabitants then began to move away as the population diversified. Soho increasingly attracted less well-off inhabitants and the change in social status brought a new population, including commercial traders; immigrant communities such as the French Huguenots had begun settling here and it also became popular with the artistic community. The sites of the grand houses were redeveloped and by the mid-C19th Soho was one of the most densely populated areas of London and one of the poorest. As a result, a number of charities established resources to help homeless and other destitute people, and hospitals such as the Hospital for the Women on Soho Square were set up to address local health problems.
The House of Charity was established in 1846 by Dr Henry Monro and barrister Roundell Palmer, later Lord Chancellor and first Earl of Selborne. Dr Monro, from a distinguished family of medical practitioners working in London in the C18th and C19th, was a physician to Bethlehem Hospital and St Luke's Hospital and also concerned with the poor in Soho. The new charity's stated aims were to help the 'better class of deserving poor' and to provide a means for 'like minded people to help those less fortunate than themselves'. The charity was administered by a group of distinguished Anglicans including Dr Monro, the future Prime Minister William Gladstone, and F D Maurice, Professor of Theology at King's College and later founder of the Working Men's College. The House of Charity was initially based at 9 Rose Street (later renamed Manette Street) in a former workhouse designed by James Paine Jnr in 1770. In 1862 it moved to No 1 Greek Street, which had been purchased in 1861.
The house at No 1 Greek Street, once the site of an earlier house, had been built speculatively c.1744-46 by Joseph Pearce but initially remained empty. The interior was fitted out some 8 years later, after it was purchased in 1754 by Richard Beckford, brother of William Beckford, who was later Lord Mayor of London and who lived in Soho Square. Richard was MP for Bristol and, like his brother, an Alderman of the City of London; in 1755 he became Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths' Company. However he returned to the Continent in late 1755, probably for health reasons, and died the following year. The fine interior that was created for Beckford was finished in carved wood and moulded plaster and has been described as one of the best surviving examples in London of mid C18th Rococo decoration. It has one of only 3 'crinoline' staircases in London with shaped balustrades to make room for ladies' skirts. The house was then sold to James Colebrooke, and had a succession of owners until 1811 when it became offices for Westminster Commissioners for Sewers, who in 1847 built a plain office behind the house. Between 1855-61 its successor body, the newly formed Metropolitan Board of Works, used a room on the first floor for storing records relating to London's sewers. The house was then sold to the House of Charity for use as a hostel for homeless people.
After the House of Charity moved to No 1 Greek Street, a private chapel was added in the former stable yard and was visible from Manette Street. It was designed by Joseph Clarke in 1862-4, and the Annual Report of 1928 states that it was 'suggested and partly designed from the plans of a Romanesque chapel attached to the abbey of Montmajeur, Arles, France'. It was one of the first religious buildings erected under the influence of the Oxford Movement. Clarke's plans also included a cloister, refectory and dormitories to provide temporary accommodation for the homeless, but these were never realised. The work of the charity has continued to this day. From 1946 the charity provided a women's hostel, but since 2006 has ceased to be residential although homeless people are offered a range of opportunities. The Life Skills Programme offers coaching, skills development, therapies, health advice, work opportunities, art, music and gardening. In 1961 the charity's name was changed to the House of St Barnabas-in-Soho.
The small secluded garden, enclosed on two sides by the house and private chapel, has paved areas, flower beds, and a number of mature trees, including a mulberry tree under which Charles Dickens may have sat to plan 'A Tale of Two Cities'. The house and garden are said to be a model for Dr Manette and Lucy's lodgings, and nearby Manette Street recalls this association.
The main rooms of the house have been restored and are hired out for private functions and events as a means of raising funds for the charity's work.
OGSW booklet 2009; 'at the house' newsletter, spring 2009; WCC, Soho & Chinatown Conservation Area Audit, 2006; Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 6: Westminster', (Yale University Press, 2003); Ben Weinreb, Christopher Hibbert, Julia Keay, John Keay, 'The London Encyclopaedia' Third edition (Macmillan, 2008); Plans and perspectives of Joseph Clarke scheme in The Builder, 7 June 1862, p. 407. 'Soho Square Area: Portland Estate: No. 1 Greek Street: The House of St. Barnabas-in-Soho', Survey of London: volumes 33 and 34: St Anne Soho (1966), pp. 88-106.