St Joseph's Home for the Elderly
296a Portobello Road, North Kensington, W10 5GN
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1869 - 1978

On 7th June 1865 the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic order, bought the Portobello Farmhouse and its grounds on which to build a convent and a home for the elderly.

The Sisters had come to London from Brittany with the intention of establishing homes in which to care for the elderly poor, irrespective of creed.  They lived nearby while the old buildings were demolished and a convent and Home were built on the site of the orchard.

Known variously as St Joseph's House, Home for the Aged Poor, St Joseph's Home for the Elderly opened in 1869.  It was a large brick building, said to resemble a workhouse infirmary.  It could accommodate more than 200 elderly and infirm people of both sexes in large airy dormitories with patchwork quilts on the beds.  No distinction was made for admission - people of all creeds were accepted - but applicants had to be destitute, respectable old people incapable of supporting themselves and with no-one else to help them.

The Sisters had no income or funds whatsoever.  The aged inmates were supported by contributions of food, old clothing and money - or anything else offered to them - collected daily by the Sisters, who begged by knocking on the doors of local houses and shops.  The nuns themselves lived on the scraps left by the paupers.

By 1877 the Home contained 250 residents, many of whom were Irish.

In 1882 the Home was extended, when a wing was added to the large building facing Portobello Road.

In 1891 the Home contained 243 inmates and staff.

In 1960 the Home had 167 residents.

In 1973 it was described as a "large group of outwardly utilitarian 3-storey buildings with semi-basements and attics, built of yellow stock bricks with bands of blue-black brick and stone, and stone dressings."

The Home closed in 1978 and the site sold for redevelopment.

Present status (March 2019)

The Home was demolished in the early 1980s.  The entrances along the old wall in Portobello Road were blocked up.   St Joseph's Court was built on its site in the 1986, with access to the buildings from Bevington Road.

In 2009 the wall became an open-air art gallery.

The Little Sisters of the Poor continue to maintain two homes in London for the elderly - St Peter's Residence in Vauxhall and St Anne's House in Stamford Hill.

St Joseph's Court
St Joseph's Court, a large housing development, occupies the site.

St Joseph's Close

The old wall is now an exhibition space - the Portobello Wall (above and below).

St Peter's Close

St Joseph's Close

New works (above) are commissioned by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  The wall on the west side of Portobello Road adjacent to the former St Anne's Home for Roman Catholic girls is also a gallery space (below).

St Joseph's Close

St Joseph's Court
The entrance to St Joseph's Court is on Bevington Road.

References (Accessed 3rd April 2019)

(Author unstated) 1876 The Catholic Directory.  London:  Burns and Oates. 366.

(Author unstated 1887  The Religious Houses of the United Kingdom.  London:  Burns and Oates, 173-176.

Leroy A 1906  History of the Little Sisters of the Poor.  London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne. Pp. 227, 285-286, 535.

Orme Dudfield T 1877 Annual Report of the Medical Officer for Health.  London, Kensington, 38-39.

Orme Dudfield T 1881 Annual Report of the Medical Officer for Health.  London, Kensington, 85-86.

Orme Dudfield T 1891 Annual Report of the Medical Officer for Health.  London, Kensington, 269.

www.british-history.ac.uk (1)
www.british-history.ac.uk (2)
www.theundergroundmap.com (1)
www.theundergroundmap.com (2)

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