Last year we did a shoot at a very beautiful location; the Asylum in Peckham, or Caroline Gardens Chapel in Southeast London. Nestled among a pretty row of almshouses, the grade II listed building is the largest complex of alms houses in London and was formerly a Licensed Victuallers Benevolent Institution Asylum aka; the home for old folks and retired pub landlords as opposed to an asylum in the typical sense of the word.
Almshouses were necessary for life back in the Georgian and Victorian days, it was how the poor and elderly were cared for in society without referring them to work houses or destitution and residents were in receipt of medical care, heating, and a weekly cash allowance. The very early beginnings of the welfare system one could say. The Asylum was a core part of the society it inhibited, a lot of the infrastructure were donations and the tablets on the wall in dedication to their benefactors, most notable of which is Prince Albert, HRH. Many of these stones are still in situ today.
During WWII the chapel was bombed and the building very nearly destroyed except for the stained windows which still stand today. The residents had already been moved to Buckinghamshire. In 1960 the Asylum was sold to Southwark Borough and it is still remains social housing today. It was named Caroline Gardens after Caroline Secker, the wife of James Secker, said to be the man who caught Horatio Lord Nelson when he was shot. Battle of Trafalgar.
Today, the Chapel has undergone little restoration, several plans of a major overhaul fell through, which was probably for the best because it has retained a lot of its original features. It is an open space with incredible features- high beamed ceilings, stonewalls, stained windows, the altar… perfect for everything from photoshoots, to weddings, parties and plays, rehearsals and plenty more. It is still surrounded by the almshouses and a circular courtyard green. It is one of the more beautiful places to live in London, I think so, and yet it lends a charming sort of ramshackle aesthetic to any occasion.
It is run by Jo Dennis and Dido Hallet as a space for the arts and a flexible space for just about anything else.
Do be quiet when shooting and if you have to shoot outside, respect the neighbours privacy.
The Asylum, Caroline Garden’s Chapel, London SE15 2SQ