Chapel of the Month – August 2015

Monks Chapel

This month’s guest writer is architectural historian, Ellen Leslie.

Monks Chapel

Monks Chapel

This chapel, just outside Corsham, is one of the oldest independent chapels in England. It was originally constructed in 1662. It is 31 x 18 ft and has a small gallery on three sides of the interior. The interior is white washed and it also has a double pulpit.

In 1662 the Parliament of King Charles II revised the English Prayer Book and required church ministers to use fixed forms of service and consent to the new Book of Common Prayer.

As a result many ministers felt compelled to leave the established Church and many more were ejected from their livings. In the same year the Five Mile Act was also passed by Parliament and this required all ministers to take an oath that they would not at any time seek to alter the government of the church. Those who refused to do so were not allowed to come within five miles of any town or borough.

The Quakers built Monks Chapel in 1662 outside the five mile radius of the borough of Chippenham to conform with the Act. At the same time, Benjamin Flower, son of the Vicar of Castle Combe, was ejected from his living in Cardiff, and made Chippenham his centre for preaching. He established independent worship in Corsham as a Presbyterian. In 1689 the Act of Toleration was passed and in 1690 the Independents bought Monks Chapel from the Quakers.

In 1818 a Sunday school was started and in 1824 a new gallery was constructed. Because of its remoteness, people used to spend the day at Monks, bringing their midday meal and heating it at the fireplace, which also served to warm the chapel. From the high pulpit the preacher had a good view of the surrounding countryside and he could make his way to safety if the chapel was raided by troublemakers or anyone who was trying to arrest him. There are signs that there might have been a secret doorway out of the chapel via the pulpit. This would have been for the Preacher to escape the King’s forces when they looked for him.

Regular worship has continued uninterrupted since 1690 and the chapel is now used by the United Reformed Church (descendants of the original “Independents”).

With thanks to the Wiltshire Online Parish Clerks. Additional photographs of the Chapel can be found online.

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Chapel of the Month – July 2015

St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Loughborough (Grade II listed)

St Mary's RC Church, Loughborough

St Mary’s RC Church, Loughborough

This month’s featured chapel is one of the ones that members visited in June as part of the Chapels Society summer visit. The descriptive text below is based on the notes prepared by visit leader, Moira Ackers.

There is evidence that the Dominicans were active in Loughborough in 1824, at the invitation of Ambrose Phillips de Lisle who was taking instruction.

The first small congregation in Loughborough met in a room above a shop in Market Street. They then bought land in 1834, and since there was opposition we must assume that this land lay outside of the boundaries of the Church of England’s All Saints Church.

St Mary's RC Church, Loughborough

St Mary’s RC Church, Loughborough

The church was designed by William Flint of Leicester (1835) and was also in existence before either of the later Church of England churches – St Peter’s and Emmanuel – were built and was served for a time by Mount St Bernard’s Abbey (which members also visited on the tour).

In 1841 the care of the community was given to the Fathers of the Institute of Charity otherwise known as the Rosminians.

With an expanding congregation the church was greatly enlarged with the addition of the large classical nave between 1920 and 1925 by A. M. Barrowcliffe.

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Bicentenary of the Bible Christian Methodists

DFHSTwo new CDs have been released to celebrate the Bicentenary of the Bible Christian Methodists (1815 to 2015).

By Roger Thorne and James Petherick: CHAPEL! A Celebration of the Bible Christians in Devon. (Contains an introduction and hundreds of photographs of almost all their chapels in Devon.)

By R. Keith Parsons: SOULS FOR YOUR HIRE: A History of the Northlew Circuit of the Methodist Church from 1811 to 1952. (A classic history of a very early Bible Christian Circuit. Now long out of print. With a new Introduction.)

Both CDs are available from the DFHS shop or send a cheque to: Devon FHS, PO Box 9, Exeter, Devon, EX2 6YP. Cost (in UK) per CD by post is £5 plus P/P £1.20 = £6.20

Or collect in person from: Devon Family History Society, Unit 1 King St Business Centre,
King Street, Exeter EX1 1BQ (Near the Mint Methodist Church ~ Opening hours are Mon, Tues, and Thurs from 10.30am to 4.00pm)

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Chapel of the Month – June 2015

Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Carmelite 2Location: Kensington Church Street, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London. Architect: Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, 1954-59 (Grade II Listed)

Simplified soaring lines, late Gothic reticence, soft brown brick and smooth sandstone are the hallmarks of this elegant church – in contrast to its better known, more ebullient neighbour, St Mary Abbots, designed by his grandfather, Sir George Gilbert Scott and located just to the south!

The Carmelite church stands on rising ground,by a prominent westward bend in the street whence its imposing size and skilful massing can be appreciated. It replaced a church destroyed in World War II. The emphasis in the external design is on the vertical, on tall gabled dormers and on slim Gothicising blocks of fenestration, grouped together Tudor-style.

Carmelite 4The bell-cote pinpoints the apex of the east (liturgical west ) end of the roof facing Church Street. It is set over a tall, narrow, simplified Gothic window rimmed with cream stone dressings. The corners of the facade are given emphasis with subtle strips of inset brickwork rising upwards, and tiny windows in the vertiginous aisle roofslopes to either side.

The main features of the interior are the dramatic series of gently pointed transverse arches and the striking reredos. The former are treated as internal buttresses with passage aisles. One looks above the arches, unusually, to find the “clerestory and flat ceiling with timber beams picked out in white on a red background” (list description). Light pours through high above.

Carmelite 6The reredos takes up virtually the whole of its wall in a manner that recalls the late works of G.F. Bodley and others, the images being presented with great clarity in a restrained Gothic manner, yet with obvious allusions to ‘Coronation’ colours. The light fittings, designed in wood with Gothic decoration, add scale and subtle proportioning to this beautifully considered, well wrought interior.

A Catholic convert, Giles Gilbert Scott designed many churches for Anglican and Catholic congregations, in addition to Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.

This article was kindly written and illustrated by Council member Dr Jennifer Freeman.

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Online database of C20 churches and chapels

The C20 Society has published a new online database of C20th churches and chapels in the UK with the aid of a grant from Historic England. C20 places of worship are incredibly varied and interesting, ranging from the traditional Gothic to innovative designs with features like concrete hyperbolic paraboloid roofs. Many also have wonderful fittings, including stained glass, fonts, sculpture, murals, tilework, mosaics and tapestry in every C20 style. Yet these inspirational and significant buildings remain under-represented in Historic England’s designation list. It is therefore hoped that the new database will help draw attention to our incredibly rich heritage of C20 churches and chapels.

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Chapel of the Month – May 2015

The Dutch Church in the City of London

The site, in Austin Friars, is that of the church of the Pre-Reformation Augustinian Friars. Its nave was retained at the Reformation and in 1550 was given for worship to London’s large Dutch Protestant community. The congregation was allowed to use “their own rites and ceremonies” by the ardently protestant Edward VI. Dutch presence in the City was much welcomed. “I wish that we could collect together such valuable persons in this kingdom; it would be a means of securing its prosperity”, opined Hugh Latimer, Edward’s adviser.

Dutch Church  - ExteriorThe Dutch Church thence became the oldest Nonconformist church in England, even preceding the founding of Protestant churches in Holland. But this building was not to last, being badly damaged by fire in the 1860s and completely destroyed in 1940 during the Blitz. The present Dutch Church, designed by architect Arthur Bailey (1903-79) , was reopened in 1954 by the young Princess Irene of the Netherlands.

Externally it is clad in Portland stone, applied over a system of concrete boxframes that step up in a pattern of cubes, rectangles and geometric forms, all with restrained classicising detail. At the apex is a slim bellcote and weathervane with ball finials. Tall windows and doorways emphasise the verticals.

Dutch Church  - East EndInside, the east end – with its lofty light oak tester presiding over the minister’s bench – makes a unequivocal statement about the nature of Dutch Protestantism, emphasising the Supremacy of the Word, insisting on restrained adornment, unswervingly asserting distinct beliefs. The main body of the church is one large space ; no aisles; a shallowly coffered roof curving over.

The aqua colour of the coffering is reflected in the subtly painted banisters of the main staircase. Pilaster strips model the walls and reinforce allusions to the classical style.

Dutch Church 2Gentle humour is unexpectedly evidenced in the metal spiral stair against the north wall. This ascends to the organ where decorative stair risers and decorative gold balls (again!) playfully connect themes from musical notation and contemporary furniture.

Glance around and other themes emerge – notably those of Kin and Kingship, powerfully expressed in some of the City’s most ravishing C20 stained glass. On the main stair is Max Nauta’s (1896-1957) stained glass commemoration of the Glorious Revolution of 1689, when the Catholic James II of England was defeated and succeeded by his Protestant daughter, Mary II, and her Dutch husband and cousin, William III.

Dutch Church  - Glorious Revolution 2Both are depicted in sparkling stained glass that has a jewel-like, three dimensional quality, owing to Nauta’s use of small pieces of differently coloured glass as a substrate before painting. The huge west window is Nauta’s work also, with vivid royal portraiture, saints and heraldry.

There are handsome, traditional-style brass chandeliers and wall candelabra. On the south wall is a large tapestry depicting the ‘Tree of Life’ by Dutch artist Hans van Norden (b. 1915). It is a remarkable work, recombining traditional Biblical imagery with modernist/ classicising forms in pastel, not pale, colours.

Dutch Church  - Tree of LifeThe depiction of the stairway to heaven references the stair to the organ against the wall opposite.

The church houses an important library, paintings and historic documents of great interest. It has a lively programme of services, social events and activities and is clearly well integrated into London’s City life. The relationship with the House of Orange also remains a strong one. Former Queen, Princess Beatrix, made a visit on April 24th 2015.

This article was kindly written and illustrated by Council member Dr Jennifer Freeman.

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World’s oldest Methodist chapel receives £2.5m grant

The New Room in Bristol, the oldest Methodist chapel in the world, has been awarded a grant of £2.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The historic 276 year-old Grade I listed building, known as the cradle of Methodism, was built on land bought by John Wesley himself in 1739. The grant from HLF, alongside a grant of £1.4 million from the Bristol Methodist District, will enable the existing facilities to be updated:

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News from Methodist Heritage

The Spring 2015 edition of Methodist Heritage News is now out and has articles on the new Bible Society heritage centre at St Beuno’s Church in Wales, researching historical records for the Osmotherley Methodist Chapel and updates on the Old Rectory, Epworth.

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Chapel of the Month – April 2015

Lugwawrdine Chapel

Lugwardine Chapel

Sometimes a fairly plain exterior can hide something remarkable inside. The Chapel in Lugwardine in Herefordshire certainly fits into this category. Within the modest simple Gothic structure with its pretty round window the curious visitor will find a spectacular Victorian encaustic tiled floor.

The Evangelical Protestant Mission was established at Lugwardine in 1820 and the present chapel in Lumber Lane was built in the last quarter of the nineteenth century by William Godwin, owner of the Lugwardine Tile Works.

Lugwardine Chapel tiles

Lugwardine Chapel tiles

The brighly coloured floor is part of Godwin’s legacy and comprises around 5,000 Godwin tiles in a huge variety of different designs.

Today the chapel is a Partnership and Ichthus Link Church and its brand of Christian Fellowship thrives through a number of weekly activities, which range from serious Bible study and prayer to a lively Youth Club.

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Chapel of the Month – March 2015

This month we haven chosen something a little different as our Chapel of the Month.

Chapel of St Albert the Great

Chapel of St Albert the Great

The Chapels Society generally concentrates its attention on historic chapels but we are also interested in the continuing evolution of chapel architecture and so it seems appropriate to share an example of a newly finished building – the Roman Catholic Chapel of St Albert the Great built for St Albert’s Catholic Chaplaincy, which exists to serve Catholic students and staff at the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University.

This elegant new building situated close to George Square was designed by Simpson and Brown Architects and has been the recipient of a number of architeural awards.

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