Cycling around London is a great pastime, not only for the added benefits of a wee workout but for the joy of discovering hidden gems that may not be on your daily underground commute. On a recent expedition around Wandsworth Common I came upon something so unexpected that it looked quite out of place amidst the mums and tots enjoying the outdoors in the rare sunshine.
The ‘structure’ in question is known as the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building and it is home to flats, studios, a drama school, workshops and the quaint French bar and restaurant Le Gothique.
Originally known as the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum (which has caused some confusion about its past) the building was completed in 1858 under Major Rhode Hawkins and was initially intended as an orphanage for the daughters of seamen, soldiers and marines who had died in the Russian War.
The orphanage then closed down amidst cases of physical and sexual abuse and has since had an astounding array of uses, from a hospital to an MI5 interrogation centre to a girl’s School, a teacher’s training college and a comprehensive school for boys.
The cloisters of the building has apparently been haunted for years, but the mystery of this ghostly ghoul is one that is not so easily unearthed.
My research came up with a rector, a little girl and a little boy, so I decided to contact the owner of Le Gothique, Mark Justin, for an explanation: “All ghost stories ultimately emanate from the death in a fire of Charlotte Jane Bennet in 1901. The unfortunate orphan was locked in the superintendent’s bathroom for an unknown misdemeanour. Knocking over an oil lamp during her incarceration she burnt to death.”
At the public enquiry the matron was asked by the coroner as to why she, nor her staff, went to the aid of the burning girl. Her reply: “But how were we to discern the screams of a dying girl from the day to day howls of the orphans?”
Mark opened the restaurant, which has been running for 22 years, when he was just 26. They cater for weddings, Christmas parties and even Halloween specials, and this Friday 31st October and Saturday 1st November diners can enjoy some interesting Halloween dishes amidst the ghostly haunt of this gothic mansion, including Terrine de Lapine (rabbit), Moules Marinieres (mussels) and wild boar sausage.
Le Gothique Bar & Restaurant
The Royal Victoria Patriotic Building
John Archer Way
Tel: 020 8870 6567