Oops! This site has expired. If you are the site owner, please renew your premium subscription or contact support.

West Watford History Group

History of West Watford and environs

St Barnabas' Chapel

St Barnabas's Chapel, Watford Union Workhouse

The former Workhouse (now Watford General Hospital) in Vicarage Road had its own chapel. The late Countess of Essex, who took much interest in the institutions of the town, opened a subscription list for the purpose of building a place of worship for the inmates, which resulted in the erection of the chapel, in 1870, in the grounds on the west side of the workhouse. It was named St Barnabas's and continued to be used for services when the site became Shrodells Hospital. 

L. A. Foxen,  in his recollections of 20 years of service in the institution, wrote in the ? 1920s of the chapel: "This was erected over 50 years ago and the state of repair, especially in regards to the roof and windows is not good".

However, its use continued after the war, the Chapel eventually becoming structurally unsound and was demolished in 1962. Yet parts of the chapel were preserved, the objects being distributed between various churches in the locality. The organ, built by Thomas S. Jones & Son, was transferred to All Saints' Church in South Oxhey. The stained glass window and font were given to St Bede's, Baldwins Lane, Croxley Green and the chapel bell to St Oswald's Church, Croxley Green. The altar ornaments were transferred to the replacement chapel that had been incorporated within the hospital.

There were also several memorial plaques which were reminders of the Workhouse days. One was in memory of two Workhouse boys, who were probably the only inmates to have an official memorial of any kind and it recalls that James Gurney and Daniel Gordon, both 16, "after being educated in this house, joined the band of the 24th Regiment and fell in the service of their country at the Battle of Isandulare in Zululand, January 22, 1879".

The other memorial plaques included one erected by the Board of Guardians in memory of Louisa, Countess of Essex, as a "grateful record of her Christian kindness to the inmates of the Union House and to the warm interest she took in the building of this chapel".

Another plaque remembered William Plaistowe, a Relieving Officer in Watford for 32 years who "performed his duties with a conscientious regard for the interests of the ratepayers and with justice and kindness to the poor".

A further plaque was in memory of a Watford Solicitor, Mr Richard Pugh, who became the first Clerk to the Guardians when the Watford Union was formed in 1835.

As a footnote to the removal and relocation of the Chapel Bell, it had been housed in the chimney stack at St Oswald's, Croxley Green, but when cracks in that structure appeared, was taken down and had since lain forgotten and unrecorded on the Church inventory since 1973. However, rediscovered, it was identified in 1992 by Geoffrey Dodds, an expert on bells, as one made by John Briant of Hertford in 1822.  Earlier this year (2011), St Alban's Diocese agreed that the bell could be transferred to Watford Museum.

References: Watford Post 22/02/63

Watford's Workhouse Bell - Watford Borough Council

Lost Hospitals of London

Papers held in the Watford Museum


Footnote:   There has been an ongoing line of enquiry over the last few months regarding the brass plaque in memory of the two Workhouse boys. A newspaper story suggests the plaque was incorporated into the chapel when the new hospital (Watford General) was built, but all lines of enquiry have failed to produce any result. Should anyone know of its whereabouts, please contact us. (April 2013)


For a fuller story of the Workhouse Boys who enlisted to fight in the Anglo-Zulu wars, please seen drop-down menu under "Workhouse Boys".