Inventory Site Record

St Joseph's Hospice Garden (Hackney)

Brief Description

St Joseph's Hospice was established in 1905 on the former estate of Cambridge Lodge, set up at the instigation of Father Peter Gallwey, Rector of Farm Street Jesuit Mission, to help the destitute of East London. He gained support from the Archbishop of Westminster and Miss Grace Goldsmith, whose gift of £300 a year in 1899 enabled a group of Sisters of Charity to come from Dublin to work in Hackney. In 1903 Cambridge Lodge came up for sale and was purchased for the Sisters to set up the hospice, which opened in January 1905. Over the years it has expanded but has always had a garden for recreation and contemplation. There are now different garden areas with roses, traditional perennials, half-hardy tropical plants, annual bedding schemes and container planting. The Centenary Garden was exhibited and won a medal at Chelsea Flower Show in 2005. Further garden areas are being created as part of new building works in 2010.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Cambridge Lodge Villas
Site location:
Mare Street, Hackney
E8 4SA
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Institutional Grounds
Open to public?
Opening times:
Has opened for OGSW, Open House and hospice events
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 13 times, most recently in 2023.
Special conditions:
Courtyard café
Summer Fete, Christmas Bazaar and other events
Public transport:
Rail: London Fields. Tube: Bethnal Green (Central) then bus. Bus: 48, 55, 106, 254, D6
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.stjh.org.uk

Full Site Description

St Joseph's Hospice was established here in 1905 on the former estate of Cambridge Lodge, which comprised a house, garden and cul-de-sac of 6 villas, built in 1856 by Marmaduke Matthews. William and Catherine Booth, co-founders of the Salvation Army, lived at Cambridge Lodge Villas in 1865-7. St Joseph's Hospice was set up at the instigation of Father Peter Gallwey, who was Rector of Farm Street Jesuit Mission. Concerned for the terrible destitution of the poor in overcrowded East London and aware of the hospices, hospitals and schools run in Ireland by the Sisters of Charity, for many years he sent requests for them to come over to work in the East End. He was supported in this by Cardinal Vaughan, Archbishop of Westminster, but the necessary funds were lacking. In 1899 Miss Grace Goldsmith, in thanks for being received into the Catholic Church, offered to provide £300 a year to enable a foundation to be established from which the Sisters could work. As a result 5 Sisters arrived from Dublin in 1900 and began their work, setting up their convent in a rented building in King Edward Road, a small house with no garden. By 1903 there were 8 Sisters and funding was also now being raised through public support from a range of sources.

Nearby was Cambridge Lodge with a large garden and a cul-de-sac of 6 rented villas. On 25 March the Sisters rented one of the villas, small but with a garden. In December the estate of Cambridge Lodge including the 6 villas came up for sale and was sold to an anonymous buyer for £10,000, who presented the entire estate to the Sisters of Charity for use as a hospice for the dying. The property was handed over to the Sisters on 25 March 1904, and Cambridge Lodge eventually became vacant in September. It took until January 1905 to repair the house and transform it into a hospice and it opened on 15 January. A booklet published soon after it opened described the garden in the early days: 'We go into the little Hospice by an ordinary house door. Beyond the passage, there is a glimpse of a bright place with glass walls; and, farther yet, an open doorway to a country garden, - yes, a country garden even among the town labyrinth of this poor quarter. Did we not say we were stepping out of Mare Street into another world?'

The hospice expanded over the succeeding years. In 1922 3 wards and a new laundry were added, and in 1925 the hospice was extended to 75 beds. The closure of Cambridge Heath Congregational Church in 1936 provided more land for the hospice. During WWII it was requisitioned for war use and it was badly bombed and the chapel, which was built in 1932, is now the oldest part of the complex remaining today. In the 1950s Dr Cicely Saunders became associated with St Joseph's, where she developed pioneering methods of palliative care. When Our Lady's Wing was built in 1958, it was the first purpose-built hospice unit in the UK. Our Lady's Wing was later demolished in 2002 for the new Centenary Wing, opened 2005. St Patrick's Wing, also built in the 1950s, replaced the C19th hospice buildings; more recent additions are Heenan House in 1977, now housing educational facilities, and Norfolk Wing in 1984.

Overlooking the largest area of garden, Providence Wing, originally built in 1995, was refurbished in 2008 and now houses the Finding Space Project on the first floor, a multifunctional space. This aims to develop new services to support patients and carers, to provide information and engage the wider community. Below this, a new garden room for patients and relatives is being constructed due to open in 2010 looking onto the main garden. Elsewhere on the site are a number of different garden areas for patients, staff and visitors to use for recreation and contemplation. There are many varieties of rose grown, traditional perennials, half-hardy tropical plants as well as annual bedding schemes and container planting. The Centenary Garden was exhibited and won a medal at Chelsea Flower Show in 2005, now recreated adjacent to the Garden Restaurant below the chapel. In 2008 a water sculpture was installed in the front courtyard. A new convent for the Sisters of Charity being constructed to the south of the hospice, will release an area to be re-landscaped as another garden area.

Sources consulted:

See www.stjh.org.uk for John Scott 'History of a Hospice, The Early Days' (n.d.); T F T Baker (ed) A History of the County of Middlesex: Vol 10 Hackney: Mare Street and London Fields' (Victoria County History, 1995); 'A London Gateway to Heaven' (Westminster Press, 1905); Michelle Winslow, David Clare, 'St Joseph's Hospice, Hackney' (Observatory Publications, 2005)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ349838 (534890,183770)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
St Joseph's Hospice
Site management:
St Joseph's Hospice
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Area
Other LA designation:

St Joseph's Hospice Garden

St Joseph's Hospice - Photo: Candy Blackham

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