08-FEB-07 Chapel at Runwell Hospital
Hospital chapel erected in 1937, designed by Elcock and Sutcliffe. It is constructed of white brick with heavy ashlar masonry. The mansard roof has orange pantiles. Cruciform in plan with an apse at the east end, it has a projecting vestry to the north and side chapel to the south, flanking the chancel. There is a circular stair tower to the north of the apse. Double entrances lead into a lobby at the west end with side rooms. The south front has three window openings to the nave holding small-paned, metal frames. The windows have heavy ashlar surrounds, aprons and white stone sills and their heads pierce the eaves. Above each window, in the upper tier of the mansard roof, is a shallow, semi-circular dormer. To the east of the nave windows is a doorway into the east end of the nave, with a timber door, and further east is the gable of the side chapel with a single window. Behind, above the chancel there is a squat square tower with a pyramidal roof and a louvred opening.
INTERIOR: Austere interior with round arches. Separate nave and chancel divided by chancel arch. Barrel vaulted ceiling over the nave, which has a parquet floor. The chancel has a decorative stone floor and is raised two steps above the nave, with the altar beyond raised a further two steps. The altar, riddle posts, choir stalls, organ and lectern are contemporary with the building and are of varnished timber. The pulpit, raised on an octagonal, stone plinth, choir stalls and organ have a jazz modern fluted frieze. Wall lights in the nave take the form of roman oil lamps.
East Ham and Southend-on-Sea local authorities formed a joint committee for the purposes of erecting a new mental hospital in 1928 and in 1931 the site at Runwell was chosen. The site was compulsorily purchased in 1933 and architects Elcock and Sutcliffe were appointed from a short list provided by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Elcock visited mental hospitals in the United States and on the Continent as well as in Britain to absorb the latest developments in planning.
Elcock and Sutcliffe were one of the most prominent practices of their day concerned with hospital planning. They had designed the Daily Telegraph offices and printing works in Fleet Street, London with Thomas Tait in 1928 (listed grade ll, 1983). Water Meadows, a house by C.E. Elcock in Huntington, Yorkshire, erected in 1922-23 is listed grade ll (1995). He is perhaps best known for his promotion in the 1930s of 'veranda wards' in hospitals where sunlight and air was a requirement, such as those designed by Elcock and Sutcliffe for the cottage hospital at Warminster, Wiltshire in 1928-9 and for Hertford County Hospital in 1932-3.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: The chapel at Runwell Hospital is a white brick building with heavy stone dressings and pantiled roof, in an eclectic Mediterranean style, typical of inter-war chapels in its use of round arches and plain, smooth internal surfaces. Erected in 1937, it was designed by Elcock and Sutcliffe, one of the most prominent practices of their day concerned with hospital planning. It survives almost intact with original altar and riddle posts, choir stalls, organ, pulpit and lectern. Its plan form, with separate entrances and a lobby and side rooms for epilpetics, follows the guidelines of the Commissioners in Lunacy for the day. The architecture of the chapel is thoughtful and of a high quality, with unusual use of natural light sources onto the altar and into the nave. It is by prominent architects and has the historic interest of being designed as a hospital chapel.
SOURCES: The Builder, 18 June 1937, 1283
RCHME, English Hospitals 1660-1948, 1998, p176
RCHME, Runwell Hospital, unpublished report, NMRC, NBR No. 101247