Inventory Site Record

Merchant Taylors' Almshouses and Boone's Chapel

Merchant Taylors' Almshouses and Boone's Chapel (Lewisham)

Brief Description

The communal garden for the Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses comprises a sloping quadrangular lawn with mature specimen trees and shrubbery beds around the perimeter. The almshouses were built here in 1826 after the Company decided to relocate its almshouses at Tower Hill to Lee. The site is near that of earlier Boone’s Almshouses of 1683, demolished in 1877. Boone's Chapel remains fronting onto Lee High Road and was restored in 2008 when a small physic garden was planted by local children, inspired by founder Christopher Boone's interest in horticulture.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Boone's Almshouses
Site location:
Lee High Road/Brandram Road, Lee
Type of site:
Private Garden
Open to public?
Opening times:
Almshouse garden is private, but Boone's Chapel and its garden are open 30 days each year, including for London Open House
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Tube: Lewisham (DLR) then bus. Rail: Lewisham/Blackheath then bus.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2009
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

The site was once occupied by Boone's Almshouses on land given to the Masters and Wardens of the Merchant Taylors' Company in a deed of 1683 by Christopher Boone of Lee Place. An ancestor of Daniel Boone, Christopher Boone (d.1686) was a wool merchant from Taunton in Somerset who had moved to Lee Place near Manor House with his wife Mary in 1670. During restoration works on Boone's Chapel in 2006, a chamber below the chapel revealed the burial place of Christopher and Mary. A Boone family vault was later created in St Margaret's Old Churchyard (q.v.) on Lee Terrace. The Merchant Taylors made tents and padded linen tunics worn under armour in medieval times and became the authority for inspection of measures used for selling cloth in the City and at fairs. The Company was granted its first charter in 1327; members of the guild included Sir Christopher Wren and John Stow.

Boone built his four almshouses for the poor here on the north side of Lee High Road, three to be occupied by 6 residents, the fourth a school for 12 poor children of the parish. The complex included the chapel and a house for the school mistress, who taught English and religion to the children. In order to qualify for a place, prospective residents had to undergo a number of religious tests, which comprised reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed and the Ten Commandments by heart; failure to do so within 2 months could lead to expulsion, and the residents were expected to attend chapel services. They were also allowed to grow provisions in garden plots and to take in washing.

Boone's Chapel, which has been attributed to Wren is probably by Robert Hooke. Between 1683 and 1877 it was used as a place of worship for the almshouse residents and a chapel-of-ease for St Margaret's Parish. It was for a time in 1813 used as the parish church when the new church was being erected, and again in 1870 when the third church was being repaired. The current Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses were built on the site in 1826 by Merchant Taylors' surveyor William Jupp Jnr, after the Company decided to relocate its almshouses at Tower Hill to Lee. In 1875 Boone's Almshouses were rebuilt further down the road and the old buildings demolished in 1877, although Boone's Chapel remained, one of the first London buildings scheduled for preservation, as reported by The Kentish Mercury in September 1933.

The almshouses have a walled and railed garden comprising a sloping quadrangular lawn with mature specimen trees, London plane, holm oak, with shrubbery beds around the perimeter and flower beds. In 1999 Blackheath Historic Buildings Trust was set up and initially planned to fund much-needed restoration of the chapel by constructing new almshouse blocks on the site of mature trees to the west of the chapel, but sufficient funds were raised by 2004 without having to resort to this measure. Boone's Chapel was restored by 2008 and to the north a small physic garden was planted by local children, inspired by founder Christopher Boone's interest in horticulture, apparently encouraged by John Evelyn. The garden was designed by Madeleine Adams, the beds delineated by C17th tiles salvaged from the Chapel roof and separated by paths of cockle shells.

Sources consulted:

Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Clive Berridge, ‘The Almshouses of London’ (Ashford Press Publishing), 1987.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
private - Merchant Taylors' Company?
Site management:
1683; 1826
Listed structures:
LBI: Boone's Chapel. LBII: Almshouses
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:
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Archaeological Priority
Other LA designation:

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