FARNBOROUGH CHAPEL


  

How many people travelling from Locksbottom to Farnborough notice the chapel protruding amongst the hospital flats on the left? Do they wonder why it is there, or how it got there? The mysteries of this chapel are almost as difficult as finding it. There is no entrance from the main road and even via the hospital grounds it is easy to miss the road, but it is a turning on your right, Prudence Lane. The chapel is at the far end of the lane.


It is about 170 years old as it was erected at the same time as the Union Workhouse at Locksbottom on the site of the present hospital. It was built in response to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act.

This Act introduced the large scale construction of workhouses to serve regions as opposed to individual parishes. It was a case of big is economically beneficial rather than beautiful.

The workhouses provided a source of cheap employment to be hired, which would supplement the running costs of such establishments. The chapel would provide the spiritual support and guidance, as well as the other services of the church, though surprisingly most funerals were directed to the deceased’s’ original parish.

Over the first hundred years the workhouse metamorphosed into a hospital, and by 1948 became part of the National Health Service. It was mainly to provide operations and maternity services. The chapel still had an important role to play providing appropriate services to the needs of patients and staff.

As an example, in 1955 one little Edie had her son ‘churched’ there. This was a thanksgiving service for his safe arrival into the world. I always assumed it was because I was the first and only boy to arrive in the family. Edie and her two siblings had produced daughters until then. However, it was due to the fact that after the birth of her daughter, Edie had succumbed to tuberculosis, which involved her being sent to ‘the country’ for clean air and convalescence. I later discovered that 'the country' was actually a large house in Swanley. However, it meant that nearly six years passed before it was safe for Edie to have another child, so hence the offer of thanks in the chapel. Even in the eighties, the chapel provided an important role in the life of the hospital with the baptism of newly born babies.

Then, by 2003, Farnborough Hospital was no more, and had been replaced by the new Princess Royal University Hospital, now providing a broad spectrum of services including accident and emergencies.

The chapel, however became redundant, owing to an all faith provision being included within the new hospital building and reflecting the multi-ethnic community it now serves. Well not quite redundant……

Although its religious service may no longer be required, the chapel has continued to serve the community as the Primrose Centre. This is a registered charity that provides complementary therapy, counselling and advice to help relieve the stress caused by breast cancer. The external structure remains very much the original chapel of 1840, but internally it has been tastefully designed and decorated to be both welcoming and supportive to those affected by breast cancer, most of whom are initially shocked and distressed by their diagnosis.


         www.primrosecentre.org.uk
It is nearly sixty years since little Edie attended the chapel to say thank you. She never imagined that her little boy would be there again whispering, “thank you,” every time he collected his wife after she had attended one of the therapy sessions, or even a coffee morning with the other ladies facing the challenge of breast cancer.

On Tuesday 14th October 2014 I was able to offer a more constructive thank you by raising funds for the Primrose Centre through a Charity Quiz night at the Woodman, Farnborough. The event was well supported by friends and locals including teams from the Primrose Centre. Many thanks to Peter Reeves for hosting the event and Mary Spinks for organising the sponsored prizes.

Bob Donovan

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