The Chapel of St. Luke, designed by Elcock and Sutcliffe (two prominent architects at the time), was the chapel attached to Runwell Mental Health Hospital. It was constructed in 1937, alongside the hospital. Once competed the entire site was viewed as a pioneering development in mental health hospitals and the project boosted both architect’s reputations significantly. The hospital was divided into several specific zones, separating buildings and patients according to purpose and diagnosis. The Grade 2 listed chapel was placed at the principal junction at the top of the drive.
The chapel, which has a cruciform ground plan, is constructed of white brick with heavy ashlar masonry. Its design is reported to be in an eclectic Mediterranean style with clever positioning of windows to light the alter and nave. Some of the building’s key features include the tiled mansard roof, an apse at the east end and a circular stair tower with a spiral staircase to the north of the apse. As for the furnishings, the altar, riddle posts, organ, choir stalls and lectern are all made of varnished timber. The pulpit, organ and choir stalls are all said to have jazz modern fluted frieze (a particular type of design), and the lights in the main nave take the form of roman lamps.
Closure of the hospital was announced in the late 1990s. The entire site was gradually closed down, bit by bit, for many years after this date though. In the end, it did not close until 2010, as this was when the final closure and decommissioning of the site was eventually set. By April of the same year, all staff and patients at the hospital had been moved out. Today, only a handful of the site’s buildings have survived demolition, which started in 2012; these include the water tower, the Chapel of St. Luke and part of the administration building. It is rumoured that the chapel’s bell tower is now the home to a colony of bats, and that Chelmsford County Council are looking into ways of finding alternative accommodation for the creatures so that the building can be reused.
Our Version of Events
While cruisin’ around one of the new housing estates in Runwell, the Chapel of St. Luke appeared on the horizon. Without too much ducking and diving, or getting impaled on fences, we quickly found ourselves on the grounds of the chapel. At first glance, we thought that the building matches the style of the new housing estate that now surrounds it particularly well. The church has a modern feel to it, but, unfortunately, there isn’t much left of it. After a quick sing song on the piano and a failed attempt at playing the organ, it was time to head back to the car and get back on the road! There wasn’t very much to see so it was a quick in-out jobbie.
Explored with Ford Mayhem and A-Jay.