The Chapel

The chapel in 1927 © Dorset History Centre (NG/HH/DO(C)/2/1/2)

The chapel in 1927
© Dorset History Centre (NG/HH/DO(C)/2/1/2)

On 9 April 1862 Walter Kerr Hamilton, the Bishop of Salisbury, dedicated a permanent chapel at the hospital. The new building was financed by Robert Williams junior, son of the original donor of the site on which the hospital had been built more than twenty years before.

When the hospital opened in 1841 one of the rooms in the building was used as a makeshift chapel. In 1848 the chairman of management committee, Arthur Acland, presented the hospital with a wooden chapel which had previously been attached to his house in Dorchester. He made the donation as he was leaving the area, having inherited a relative’s estate (it is at this time that he changed his surname to Troyte). According to William George Bacot, who was house surgeon from 1852 to 1858, the wooden structure was erected outside “the first landing, at the top of the first flight of stone stairs.  The door opened from the landing, directly into the Chapel, which was supported on stone pillars, and thus made a sort of open portico over the back door”.

The work on the new chapel was carried out by Dorchester builder John Wellspring, from original designs by Benjamin Ferrey. The new structure was attached to the north-east corner of the hospital building, as a continuation of the Bankes wing.

The Salisbury and Winchester Journal described it at length:

It is in the early English style of architecture, built of Ridgeway random coursing, with Portland stone dressing, and is altogether an exceedingly unique and appropriate structure, surmounted with a pretty little bell turret and spire, ornamented with crockets and gargoyles in which there is a sweetly toned bell.  At the east end there is a large three-light window, the upper part of which is filled with beautiful tracery, and remarkably pretty lancet windows are inserted on each side, so that the place has a very light and airy appearance.  The roof is formed of graceful circular ribs, with diagonal boarding, and the walls are also panelled to a certain height all round, giving a comfort and warmth to the whole, which is a highly important consideration in a building intended for the use of the sick and invalid.  Along the internal cornice on each side are thrown out in large raised characters, “Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits,” “Who forgiveth all the sins, and healeth all thine infirmities.”  A little gallery at the west end has been constructed over the lobby entrance from the men’s wards so as to afford extra accommodation, while at the same time economising space, and this communicates direct to the woman’s ward on the upper story.  …

The fittings are of red deal and pine, stained and varnished, the comfortable open benches, &c., affording seats for about 80.  In the altar space, which is separated from the body by an oak rail supported by iron pillars, there is a neat communion table and Glastonbury chairs, and on each side of the east window large tables of the Decalogue.  A neat alter-cloth covers the table, and the whole place is comfortably carpeted.  Provision is made for heating in the winter by a hot air stove, and the place is to be lit up by gas brackets projecting from the side walls.  Under the chapel there is a lobby open to the yard by two large arches, for the patients to resort when the weather renders it advisable …

Along the front of the chapel there was a commemorative brass which read: “This chapel was built, A.D. 1862, by Robert Williams, of Bridgehead, in affectionate remembrance of Arthur Henry Dyke Troyte, one of the chief founders of this hospital, who entered into his rest 19th June 1857.”

Because it was not a standalone building it was treated as a private chapel, which meant a dedication service was held rather than a service of consecration.  The Bishop was attended by the Hon. and Rev. W. H. Scott, as his chaplain, and the service commenced with the Litany, read by the Rev. Gerard Davis. Scott was a subscriber to the hospital and Davis was the hospital’s chaplain.  Horace Moule, “a writer for the Press” and son of the vicar of Fordington, played the harmonium, and led the choir in singing Psalm 103:

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases …

Afterwards the Bishop – “an indefatigable preacher” – gave a sermon based on Matthew 8, verse 17 “Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses”. He then offered up prayers of dedication and asked for Divine blessing on the founder and his family, and the service was brought to a close with the benediction.

Over time the chapel became a repository for various memorials to hospital’s benefactors. One of these memorials – a fine brass tablet which was fixed to the north wall of the chapel – still survives and is on display in the modern hospital:

© Judith Jones/Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

© Judith Jones/Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Other commemorative tablets were lost when the chapel was demolished after the hospital’s closure in the 1990s. Luckily Patrick Rimmer, of the hospital’s estates department, had the foresight to record the wording and I am grateful to him for supplying these. One marks the death of Dr. William Vawdry Lush during a management committee meeting at the hospital.


Portrait Lush 96dpi

William Vawdrey Lush © Dorset County Museum








charles bingham memorial v2






In 1899 “a very handsome painted east window” was given by Colonel (later Sir) Robert Williams, M.P. and his two sisters, in memory of their father and brother.  The window was the work of Messrs. Lavers and Westlake of London. The centre light depicted

our Lord’s love and care for His people, under the similitude of the ‘Good Shepherd’; the side lights are intended to draw attention to two great Christian virtues especially necessary for inmates of a hospital, viz. : Faith and Thankfulness ; while at the head of window is seen an Angel bearing a scroll with the blessed message to those who work for the poor and afflicted – “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren ye have done it unto Me”.


Sources: H. P. Liddon, Walter Kerr Hamilton, Bishop of Salisbury, A Sketch …., 1869, 2nd edition, London: Rivingtons; Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 12 April 1862, page 4; John Acland, A Short History of the Dorset County Hospital, 1902, pages 14-17.