Chapel of the Month – November 2014

Dissenters' Chapel

Dissenters’ Chapel

The Dissenters’ Chapel stands in the historic cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green that had been established by Act of Parliament in 1832.

It was London’s first public cemetery, available for use by all regardless of religious allegiance. Kensal Green is Grade I on the National Parks and Gardens Register and lies within a designated conservation area.

It was originally divided into two parts, a smaller eastern part allocated to Dissenters (including non-Christian faiths) and a larger western area, over which the Grade I Anglican Chapel, positioned on an ‘eminence’, majestically presides. The divide was originally marked by a ‘sunk fence’ and gated path. At the western edge of the cemetery is a non-denominational crematorium of 1938-9 with two chapels in active use . Its arrival effectively put the Dissenters’ chapel out of use.

Dissenters' Chapel

Dissenters’ Chapel

The architect of both the Anglican (1836) and Dissenters’ (1834) chapels was John Griffith of Finsbury (1796-1888) who based his designs on the well-established Greek Revival style that had yet to be superseded by the nascent Gothic Revival. He drew on various Ancient Greek sources for the Dissenters’ chapel – placed to fit neatly inside the curve of the long brick cemetery wall where it backs onto Ladbroke Grove. The chapel was suitably off-centred and out of view from the Anglican chapel 1/4 mile away! Griffith seems to have relied on an amalgam of ideas for his designs. The Dissenters’ chapel portico recalls the long lost Temple on the Ilissus River near Athens that Stuart and Revett admired and illustrated.* The colonnades resemble the demolished Choragic Monument of Thrasyllus in Athens but the curved plan form and use of the Thrasyllus ‘antae’ as paired columns seem to be unique to Griffith.

The chapel was restored from dereliction in 1996/7 by the Historic Chapels Trust which holds a long lease from the General Cemetery Company, and is let on licence to the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery. The main body of the chapel has been recreated following Griffith’s drawings; a later OwenJones – inspired 1860s paint scheme was retrieved, following investigation. An new exhibition space and modern facilities are available, thanks to an early HLF grant – the first to a cemetery project. Additional funding came from City Challenge, English Heritage and smaller donations. Below the chapel is a catacomb with coffins deposited on racks.

Dissenters' Chapel

Dissenters’ Chapel

Kensal Green Cemetery achieved prestige and popularity following the arrival of several royal burials in the 1840s, including HRH the Duke of Sussex (1773-1843) and HRH Princess Sophia (1777-1848), both children of George III. HRH the Duke of Cambridge (1819-1904), son of Queen Victoria, is buried here too. The connection was rekindled on October 30th when HRH The Duke of Gloucester visited the cemetery at the invitation of the Heritage of London Trust and was entertained at a reception held in the Dissenters’ chapel organised by its Friends.

* James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, The Antiquities of Athens, Vol 1, Haberkorn, 1762.
See also James Stevens Curl (ed), Kensal Green Cemetery, Phillimore, 2001, especially Chapter VII.

With thanks to Dr Jennifer Freeman for contributing this post.

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HCT Launches Photographic Competition

The Historic Chapels Trust (HCT) are on the look out for high quality photos of their churches, chapels and meeting houses to use in publicity, fundraising and on the website.  If you are a keen photographer you could win £250 of equipment of your choice in our competition.

Closing date: 31 March 2015

For entry details email

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Methodist Heritage

Heritage News

Heritage News

The Autumn 2014 edition of the excellent Methodist heritage newsletter has now been published.

The latest edition of Methodist Heritage News includes articles on the transformation of the garden at Wesley Memorial Church in Epworth, cataloguing an archive of the Evangelical Revival and an update on the award-winning My Primitive Methodists Ancestors website.

If you haven’t yet signed up to receive the newsletter directly you can also ‘sign up’ on the website and view archive copies of past newsletters too.

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For Liberty Against Tyranny

Date: 10th – 15th November

Location: Regent’s Park College, Pusey St, Oxford, OX1 2LB

The Angus Library and Archive is the leading collection of Baptist history and heritage. Their next exhibition will commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

The exhibition looks at the events of the First World War and how these affected the thoughts and actions of non-conformists. Featured will be never before seen items such as correspondence from Prime Minister David Lloyd George, emergency passports issued at the outbreak of war and photographs from international war fronts.

There will be two additional events and talks:

10th November – 6.30pm – First World War talk with Dr Adrian Gregory

11th November – 6.30pm – ‘War, Peace and the Nonconformist Conscience’ with Professor Keith Robbins

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New Welsh Chapels website

Addoldai Cymru (Welsh Religious Buildings Trust) is a charity set up to take into ownership a selection of redundant chapels that are historically and/or architecturally significant to the story of chapel building and Nonconformity in Wales and that are valuable to their local communities.

It has recently launched a new website to promote Welsh Chapels with assistance from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

The new website includes information about the chapels owned by Addoldai Cymru as well as a range of useful pages containing advice on the care of chapels as well as the history of Nonconformity.


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Chapel of the Month – October 2014

October’s Chapel of the Month is the picturesque North Lopham Wesleyan Chapel, Norfolk listed at Grade II. Dating from 1812, it is alleged to be one of the oldest Methodist Chapels existing within Norfolk and is now in the Diss Circuit of the East Anglia District.

North Lopham Wesleyan ChurchThe chapel has a brick front with side walls of flint pebble with brick dressings and a hipped pitched roof covering of dark glazed pantiles except for the front slope which is of slate. A broad principal elevation consists of three bays with two round-arched doorways and a flat brick string course between corner pilasters. Three segmental mid C19 sash windows exist to the first floor.

The interior has its original panelled three sided balcony on circular cast iron columns all with original seating intact. At ground floor late C19 benches and rostrum remain. A Wesleyan day school dating from 1864 exists to the rear of the chapel and a burial ground with headstones dating from early C19 and later to the front.

According to “Methodist Church buildings – Statistical Returns including seating accommodation, as at July 1st, 1940″ published by The Department for Chapel Affairs, Manchester in 1947, North Lopham Chapel had seating for 202 souls, all in pews at this time.

The chapel is currently at risk, recent news reaching the Society of its closure citing a lack of funds for ongoing repair and maintenance. It is understood that discussions have taken place regarding placing the chapel on the property market for development.

More news regarding its closure can be found on the Diss Express website.

With thanks to Michael Atkinson for contributing this post.

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C20 Chapels Conference – Booking extended!

We have extended the booking period for the Chapels Society’s conference on C20 nonconformist chapels until 08 October 2014.

This excellent and stimulating conference – with a range of well known speakers including Elaine Harwood, Andy Foster and Andrew Saint – will take place in Birmingham on 08 November 2014.

For more details and a booking form visit the event page.

Book now in case you miss out!

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Chapel of the Month – September 2014

George Street Chapel

George Street Chapel

September’s Chapel of the Month is the charming but unlisted former joint Methodist-United Reformed Church chapel in George Street in the brewing town of Burton-upon-Trent.  Known originally as George Street Chapel it was built of brick in a Grecian style to a design by Thomas Simpson of Nottingham and was opened in 1860. Now dwarfed by the neighbouring Coors brewery it is no longer in use as a place of worship and was most recently used as a beauty salon.

An excellent summary of Nonconformity in Burton-upon-Trent can be found on the British History Online website.

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National Churches Trust launches Skype surgeries

The National Churches Trust (NCT) is offering free surgeries with support and advice for dealing with specific issues relating to the care of churches, chapels and meeting houses via Skype.  The sessions are aimed at people involved in general church care or dealing with repair or refurbishment projects.  Future discussions may also include ideas on how best to develop tourism initiatives to attract more visitors and ways to get the support of the wider local community.  To book a surgery visit

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New English Heritage Strategy for Working with Places of Worship published

English Heritage has published a new 5-year strategy designed to:

  • promote the value of places of worship
  • support the communities that look after them
  • support creative and viable ways of using places of worship to improve their sustainability

A copy of the strategy can be downloaded from the English Heritage website.

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