Founded by Queen Matilda in 1147, the Royal Foundation of St Katharine has served as a centre for worship, hospitality and service over many centuries.
Originally known as St Katharine’s By The Tower, it served as medieval church, hospital and centre of St Katharine’s precinct, a liberty housing over two thousand people along with its own courts, factories, breweries and prisons. In 1825 the battle to preserve St Katharine’s By the Tower was lost, the land excavated and flooded to form St Katharine’s Docks. The institution survived a move to Regent’s Park, but it was not until after WWII that it finally moved back to its spiritual home in the East End, occupying the site of St James Ratcliff in 1948 after the original church’s destruction in the blitz.
Upon its return to this East End crossroads connecting the communities of Stepney, Shadwell and Limehouse and still adjacent to the site of the old docks, the Foundation was housed in the Georgian vicarage still standing. The complex now surrounding it has grown over time, carefully constructed to preserve the sense of an oasis in the city. The re-ordered chapel is the centrepiece of retreat and reflection, gracefully knitted into the fabric connecting the Georgian house with a modern retreat and conference centre which was opened in 2005.
In 2014, The Foundation hosted over 750 meetings and conferences, of which the vast majority benefitted from subsidised church and not-for-profit sector rates. Over 16,000 people also stayed overnight on personal retreat, as part of a conference or as an alternative to a London hotel. The Foundation is currently ranked 10 out of 665 places to stay in London as part of the “speciality lodgings” category on Tripadvisor, and was recently included in Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay.
The Foundation is starting a new phase in its long history as it renews its commitment to Worship, Hospitality and Service. In October 2015, The Foundation will open St. Katharine's Precinct, a community project made entirely from shipping containers and yurts which will be recycled at the end of the project. The project will include new facilities including a Wellbeing Hub, London's first Yurt Cafe & Reflective Space and Artist Studios (in partnership with Bow Arts).