During the summer Ian and I spent a night at the Prince Regent Hotel in Woodford Bridge. Imagine our surprise when we opened the door to our room to discover the room contained stained glass windows. We were intrigued by this and the following morning took a stroll in the hotel gardens. The hotel, as many of you will know, is Georgian and they have now added a new curved wing which contains many of the bedrooms and various function rooms. We were amazed to discover that this wing is also attached to a chapel which itself has been converted into additional rooms including, of course, our room with the stained glass windows. None of this can be seen from Manor Road. In many ways from the outside the chapel is quite plain. There is no visible foundation stone or any plaques such as on our church and certainly no decorative embellishments. The architecture is, however, quite striking with several large windows and arched perpendicular pillars set at right angles to main building.
We were staying at the hotel on the night before John and Audrey's Golden Wedding celebrations. The following morning we were eager to show off the photos we had taken and to tell of our discoveries. No-one knew anything about the chapel!
A quick internet search on our return home soon provided some answers. The Prince Regent Hotel was formerly Gywnne House which had been re-built in its current style in 1816. The property and its 64 acres of land were acquired by Dr. Barnardo's Homes in 1910 when 34 boys lived in the home. By 1912, 13 houses had been built in the grounds to accommodate 390 boys. The 'Boys Garden City' was officially opened in May 1912. Three more houses were built the following year and a gymnasium, hospital, isolation hospital and swimming pool were added. Woodford Bridge Garden City Elementary School was opened for the boys in 1913, too. In 1921 three more houses and a bakery were added and a Scout troop was opened.
The City Garden Chapel, which is now part of the hotel, dating from 1932 is described in the Victoria County History as 'a building of brown brick ..... and designed in a free perpendicular style by W. H. Godfrey'. The stained glass windows in our room were unveiled on 10th May 1951 to commemorate the work of Dr. Robert Milne and his wife, Mary. Dr. Milne was the Senior Medical Officer of Barnardo's from 1880-1919.
In the 1960's and 1970's many of the houses were demolished. Some of the land was used to build 200 new houses whilst some was used for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Centre. The chapel ceased to be used for worship in 1968 and was later sold. Gwynne House was sold in 1985 and later became the Prince Regent Hotel as did the Garden City Chapel.