History in Structure

Blocks A and B and façade of Relief Office at St Leonard's Hospital

A Grade II Listed Building in Hackney, London

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Latitude: 51.5339 / 51°32'2"N

Longitude: -0.0778 / 0°4'39"W

OS Eastings: 533423

OS Northings: 183418

OS Grid: TQ334834

Mapcode National: GBR V4.P9

Mapcode Global: VHGQT.LPRZ

Plus Code: 9C3XGWMC+HV

Entry Name: Blocks A and B and façade of Relief Office at St Leonard's Hospital

Listing Date: 10 June 2009

Last Amended: 17 September 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393325

English Heritage Legacy ID: 506759

ID on this website: 101393325

Location: Haggerston, Hackney, London, E2

County: London

District: Hackney

Electoral Ward/Division: Hoxton East & Shoreditch

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Hackney

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Hoxton St Anne

Church of England Diocese: London

Tagged with: Architectural structure

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Former workhouse, now hospital, for the Parish of St Leonard, Shoreditch, around 1863-1866, by William Lee of St Michael's House, Cornhill. Later alterations. The listing applies only to the main frontage block to Kingsland Road (block A), the block running perpendicular to it to the rear (block B), and the façade of the Relief Office. The other buildings on the site including the modern block behind the facade of the Relief Office to Hoxton Street, do not form part of the listed building.


Former workhouse, now hospital, for the Parish of St Leonard, Shoreditch, around 1863-6, by William Lee of St Michael's House, Cornhill. Later alterations. The listing applies only to the main frontage block to Kingsland Road (block A), the block running perpendicular to it to the rear (block B), and the façade of the Relief Office to Hoxton Street. The other buildings on the site, including the modern block behind the facade of the Relief Office, do not form part of the listed building.

EXTERIOR: the main frontage to St Leonard's workhouse (block A) faces Kingsland Road and is a symmetrical composition in a French Second Empire style. The red brick building, with Portland stone dressings, has four storeys above a basement, an attic storey with dormers, and slate roofs. There is an eleven window bay central range, with a stone faced centrepiece with paired Doric column portico, tripartite windows, one with a scrolled pediment, under a mansard roof with iron cresting. Three-bay pavilions, also with stone centrepieces and mansard roofs, terminate the elevation, these with ground floor bay windows. Additional stone details include a rusticated plinth, keyed arches to all windows, voluted surrounds to the round-arched dormers and rusticated quoins. There is a grey granite foundation stone set into the plinth.

The other public face of the former workhouse is the facade to the Relief Office fronting Hoxton Street (further to the west). Like the main front this is red brick with Portland stone dressings but the style is Italianate. It has round arched windows on the ground floor and a broken pediment centrepiece above the quoined first floor windows; the upper floors are plainer. The string courses are painted with 'St Leonard / 1863 / Shoreditch / Offices for the Relief of the Poor' in capital letters. Only the façade of the original building survives.

This decorative exuberance is not, unsurprisingly, carried beyond the principal facades. The rear of block A and all of block B are in grey stock brick with no stone dressings, and have slate roofs with brick chimney stacks. The hall/chapel part of block B is distinguished externally by its tall, round arches windows separated by slender brick buttresses. Otherwise the elevations are unadorned and the fenestration is plain, with just simple segmental headed windows to the main wards and narrower windows in the stair towers (all with their original timber sashes). There have been some alterations to entrances to the building.

INTERIOR: in block A the broad arrangement of spaces survives, with rooms leading off a spinal corridor. The end pavilion ground floor rooms are panelled and three of the rooms have black marble fireplaces. There is a grand central staircase, with two flights at each side of the stairwell leading to a shared landing on each floor.

The stair has a decorative metal balustrade at the lower levels, stick balusters further up, and polished timber handrails. The first floor landing leads to a small balconette overlooking the hall/chapel, with an original fireproof door. Similar fireproof doors survive at other points between the main blocks.

The hall/chapel, which runs perpendicular to block A in the eastern part of block B, is three storeys in height and the full width of the building. It has a decorated plasterwork ceiling, and is lit by large arched windows set a storey above ground floor level. A further floor sits above the hall supported on decorative wrought iron brackets surmounted by large timber beams on the centre line of the piers between the windows. In the centre of the ceiling are decorative iron ventilation grilles. At the west end of the hall is a balcony, supported on cast iron columns, accessed from one of a pair of service stairs, situated on the north side of the building. The floor above the hall (which has no through access to the third floor at the western end of block B, probably because this was for female inmates and the latter for males) retains its original configuration of rooms and elements of the original joinery. Elsewhere in block B the areas inspected have been refurbished and no historic features were in evidence, although the plan is roughly the original.


The current hospital replaced an earlier workhouse building on the site dating to 1777, which by the early 1860s was considered to be in poor condition and overcrowded. Plans for the new workhouse building were drawn up in 1862 by the architect William Lee of St Michael's House, Cornhill. The first building to be completed was that housing the Parish Relief office, board room and wards facing Hoxton Street to the west of the site; the façade of this building survives, bearing the date 1863 (the rest of the building was rebuilt during the redevelopment of the western part of the site in the 1990s). The remaining workhouse buildings were completed by 1866, the foundation stone to the main frontage block on Kingsland Road having been laid in March 1865. The builders were Messrs Perry and Co, of Stratford, London and some building materials from the old workhouse were reused. The infirmary and dispensary followed in 1872. Later additions included a laundry, nurses' home, and men's and women's receiving blocks.

From the outset the infirmary and the workhouse were housed in separate buildings, reflecting the practice of distinguishing between the infirm and able-bodied (often labelled the deserving and undeserving poor). By the late 1920s the two were separate institutions known as St Leonard's House and St Leonard's Hospital, with the latter having taken over many buildings of the former, as state welfare replaced the workhouse as the preferred solution to the problem of pauperism. The fates of the two in the C20 differ. Almost no buildings survive relating to the infirmary, some blitzed in 1941; most having been demolished in 1993. The buildings used by the workhouse survive better. The main frontage to Kingsland Road (now known as block A) is relatively unaltered, as is the perpendicular range to the rear (block B). Block A originally housed the administration offices, dayrooms, and female inmates; block B contained the dining hall, which doubled up as a Chapel, and accommodation for male inmates. Running west from the hall/chapel was a long spinal corridor which provided access to a block running parallel to the main frontage (now called block D); these structures survive but have been much altered. The continuation of this spinal corridor and a further, final ward block were demolished in their entirety in 1993, along with some later additions to the 1860s building, namely the 1890s workhouse laundry block (in 1993) and the small 1890s receiving blocks (in the 1940s).

When the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was introduced, requiring parishes to form 'unions' each with its own workhouse, St Leonard's Shoreditch already had a workhouse building, dating to 1777. Thus, a new building was not required in the period between 1834 and 1841 when nationwide around 320 workhouses were built. Instead, St Leonard's belongs to the second phase of workhouse construction, the 150 or so workhouses erected between 1840 and 1870. The planning of such buildings was by this point fairly standardised, with the most popular arrangement being three parallel ranges: an entrance range, the main building and an infirmary. After a series of scandals, the Metropolitan Poor Act of 1867 encouraged London authorities to establish large pavilion-plan infirmaries on separate sites from their workhouses. The decision to build a separate infirmary at St Leonard's, taken in the mid-1860s, anticipated this development, although the infirmary itself wasn't constructed until 1872. By this point, pavilion planning was fairly commonplace.

Reasons for Listing

Blocks A and B at St Leonard's Hospital and the surviving façade of the Relief Office onto Hoxton Street are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* quality of the main frontage to Kingsland Road, which features plentiful carved stonework, tall mansards with patterned slate coverings, and decorative iron cresting;
* a second frontage to Hoxton Street in the Italianate style with characterful lettering announcing its original function;
* interior with surviving hall/chapel with decorative ceiling, a grand staircase and some fireplaces and panelling as well as planning that evidences the segregation of men and women within the institution.

Group value:

* a prominent local landmark which has group value with the Grade II Church of St Columba and its listed ancillary structures.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

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