QUEEN'S CHAPEL OF THE SAVOY
The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy (sometimes just called the Savoy Chapel) is one of those hidden oddities that London is filled with.
It sits, nearly forgotten, behind the Savoy Hotel in the Strand and is one of the oldest buildings in this part of London.
It began its life early in the medieval period when it was founded as part of the Savoy Palace, which was destroyed during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Later the Palace was rebuilt as the Savoy Hospital, commencing around 1490 and being completed by Henry VII as a side chapel off of the Hospital’s main nave – which despite its name was secular, being effectively a hospital ward.
Most of the Hospital itself was demolished during the 19th Century, but the Chapel was saved due to it becoming associated with the English Royal Family as part of the Duchy of Lancaster. As well as being a ‘Royal peculiar’ – that is to say a church not under the control of a Bishop – the Chapel has also played host to congregations from both St. Mary-le-Strand (up until 1714) and the German Lutheran church of Westminster.
Because of its unusual status during the 18th and 19th Centuries the Chapel became known as a place where marriages could be solemnised without banns being read. Evelyn Waugh describes it as “the place where divorced couples got married in those days … a poky little place”.
The Blitz destroyed most of the Chapel’s stained glass. The only surviving work being a depiction of musicians dedicated to Richard D’Oyly Carte (who married here in 1888), unveiled by the actor Sir Henry Irving in 1902. A new stained glass window was unveiled for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in November 2012.
The Chapel is still governed by the Duchy of Lancaster – and thus the English Crown – and is one of the oddest little pieces of hidden London history.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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