Sir Christopher Wren
- Original design
- Sir Christopher Wren, 1682
The 2017 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2018 programme in July.
The Blackheath Historic Buildings Trust was set up in 1999 to raise funds for the repair and conservation of Boone’s Chapel, a grade I listed building, then on the English Heritage "Buildings at Risk" register. It is a registered charity.
Boone’s Chapel was the Trust's first project. The Chapel is a single-storey rectangular building of just 45 square metres. Although it is tiny in plan, the design of the exterior is grand, combining fine brickwork with detailing in Portland stone under a complex, pyramidal roof topped by a cupola. It occupies a prominent corner of the Merchant Taylors’ Company almshouses site on Lee High Road in Lewisham.
The original almshouses and chapel were commissioned by Christopher Boone, a London merchant and, like Sir Christopher Wren, a member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company, and built in 1683. Income from the Boone family estate in Herefordshire helped provide relief for the elderly poor of Lee and for the education of 12 poor children. The original row of almshouses stood next to the Chapel facing directly on to Lee High Road.
These almshouses were demolished in 1875 but a U-shaped block, dating from 1825 and listed Grade II, remains further up the hill. After demolition of the original almshouses, the Chapel continued to function as a reading room, but fell into disuse after 1945.
It is likely that Wren was commissioned to build the Chapel and almshouses but the work was probably carried out by Robert Hooke, a close friend and colleague and another member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company. Hooke is best known for advising Wren in the re-building of the City of London after the Great Fire and in the designing of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.
The Chapel has now been fully restored – the success of this project was due to the Blackheath Historic Buildings Trust, the energy of its then Chairman, Sir Ian Mills and his colleagues, funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, the London Borough of Lewisham, various livery and other companies and also the support of many local residents, together with the Lee Manor and Blackheath Societies.
The brief for Research Design Architecture Ltd to create a public exhibition space in the single, small chapel room while funding the project as a commercial office required a flexible approach. The brief also required future use of the building and immediate site to change over time.
The public use the front doors and see little evidence of an office. Flexible storage and desking are removable. During working hours the units open up to reveal the clutter of work. All support services are located in a new build, temporary annexe.
For Research Design there is no difference in approach to historic building work or new build work. The project involved understanding the original form, construction and history of the building. New insertions (a serviced floor, a brick door, a lighting system) are recognised as C21st additions but at the same time do not obscure the clarity of the original design. Repairs to the original fabric are limited to stabilisation and like for like replacement.
The project allowed them to present their interest in landscape and low key new construction. The stand alone service building is a wall clad in reclaimed tiles from the chapel roof.