The Story Of St Vincent?s ?

The wonderful building that houses both Cathedral View and The Passage, the St Vincent?s Centre, has been helping the people of London and beyond since its incarnation in May 1863. But did you know that it has been hit by fire a number of times, it was bombed during the war, it has been a school and orphanage and it?s had its fair share of royal visits? 

The story of the space is utterly fascinating, and we wanted to share it to showcase the life-changing work it has done and continues to do. Part one of this blog series tells the story from 1863 ? 1996.?


The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul move in to Carlisle Place, using it as a school and orphanage before setting up workshops and laundry facilities. 


The school and orphanage are extended to increase their capacity, but resources to improve conditions are scarce and the local authorities are critical of the Sisters? work.

April 1881:?

210 inhabitants were recorded at the Centre, ranging from a five-week-old orphan to a 65-year-old nurse. At this time, the house was one-third of its current size.


Fire sweeps through the lower half of the building, which the Sisters fought on their own until the fire brigade arrived.


A new wing is created.


An extra floor and roof are added to the 1863 structure, bringing the building sufficiently up to standard that it is soon after approved to become a public elementary school.


The Sisters take on the role of providing auxiliary hospital services. 

28 November 1916:?

A high-flying German navy seaplane dropped six 22-pound bombs intended for Victoria Station, but one landed on Carlisle Place.


Amelie de Orleans, the last Queen of Portugal, having fled hardship and persecution at home, spent a few years assisting the Sisters, disguised simply as ?Maria.?


Day Continuation School opens. There were 247 girls attending by March 1925.


Floods break part of the Chelsea Embankment. 14 people died and 4,000 were made homeless, creating extra demand for the Sisters? services. 


The Sisters formed a club for deaf women (which would continue until 1995).

The staff from the 1930s.


Carlisle Place is requisitioned under the emergency powers outlined by the Compensation Defence Act 1939. The building serves primarily as a kitchen and is fitted with upgraded services to this end, at government expense.

1 September 1939:?

307 adults and children are evacuated from the school. A further 150 children follow suit in June 1940. Some local children resumed their education at Carlisle Place in February 1941, but revived Blitzkrieg fears meant that only 19 schoolchildren remained by June 1941.

December 1939:?

The building suffers direct hits from high explosives and an incendiary device. It is also caught in ?friendly fire? when munitions intended for enemy bombers miss and fall down to the ground.

16 April 1941:?

A bomb hits the Sisters? chapel and destroys the entirety of its contents, save for the stained-glass window that can still be seen. 


Although the London County Council wanted to close down the school, the 1944 Education (Butler) Act enabled it to remain open as a Secondary Technical School. The orphanage was not so fortunate and did not reopen after the war.

The school in 1949.

September 1974:?

The primary school transferred to St Vincent de Paul Primary School at its current location beside the Cathedral. The building remained in limbo for a few years.


A series of half-hearted development projects meant that the building would be mostly residential, but also mostly unwanted, by 1980. By this time the Sisters were providing sandwiches to the local homeless.

8 October 1980:?

The Passage Day Centre opens to provide a more dignified and organised framework for assisting the homeless. 50 visitors came on day one, a number that had tripled by the end of the year.

Clients attending The Passage’s Day Centre in the 80s.


A clothing store, Alcoholics Anonymous support group, and a medical room staffed by two state nurses were set up.


First attempt at a specialist housing service provided by the Central London Housing and Advice Service.


Work on improvements to the Day Centre takes place, providing adequate client washing and toilet facilities, and upgrading the medical room. In 1984 a fledgling weekend service was opened.


After experiencing the tensions caused by the mixture of different ages at The Passage, the Sisters decided to specialise in working with clients over the age of 25. A separate project was initiated for younger clients.?

The Girls’ Hostel – 1985.


Originally intended to be part of The Passage Trust and called Junior Passage, for economic and structural reasons the project to support younger clients established itself as a separate charity under the name DePaul Trust.

1993 and 1994:?

Princess Diana visits The Passage with Harry and William. She had previously visited in 1990 on her own, and Prince Charles would visit in April 1999 in his capacity as President of Business in the Community.?


The Passage open learning project begins, helping clients to improve their skills and therefore their chances of finding better paid employment. Previously, specialised housing and health teams had been established.