Casework

Michael Atkinson is the Chapels Society’s volunteer Casework Co-ordinator.  He can be contacted via email at chapsoc.casework@gmail.com.

Current Casework – January 2015 Update

Former Methodist Preaching House, Stroud, Gloucestershire (1763: G II*)
News has reached the Society of a notable chapel at risk in Stroud, Gloucestershire.  One of the earliest surviving octagonal Methodist chapels built in 1763 and extended in 1796 it was the centre of burgeoning Methodism in the late C18.  One of several existing Octagon Chapels existing today: Norwich (1757), Rotherham (1761), Yarm (1764), Aberdeen (1764) and Heptonstall (1764).  The chapel currently falls under the responsibility of the Salvation Army and has been the Citadel in Stroud for some time.

Constructed from coursed and squared stone with a slated pitch roof the chapel had originally been designed as a regular octagon, its early extension doubling its length.  The interior is galleried, inserted as part of early C19 alterations all with a panelled front and supported on decorative cast iron columns with Roman Doric capitals.  It is understood that little else remains of its internal furnishings and fittings.

In the autumn of 2014 a decision was reached for the chapels planned closure, citing spiralling repair and maintenance costs as the primary reason for this action.  The beginning of 2015 marks the redundancy of this important chapel.

The former Methodist Preaching House remains under possible threat of future sale however no confirmation of the Salvation Army’s intentions has yet been received.

The Society is maintaining a careful observation of any further development.

Former Ebenezer Primitive Methodist Chapel, Bristol (1849: Unlisted)
Sadly following reports earlier in 2014 of an anticipated stripping of the chapel’s interior the Society can now report the distressing news of the wholescale demolition of the former Ebenezer Primitive Methodist Chapel.  The Society in 2011 had previously contributed to an unsuccessful application for listing for this rare and striking example of Primitive Methodism.

The chapel dated from 1849, accommodating 250 congregation members and appears to have been the Primitive Methodists’ first purpose-built chapel in Bristol.  Congregational decline in the 20C together with the destructive impact of wartime led to its closure just prior to the Second World War.  The chapel however did not remain unoccupied, its last use being an architectural salvage business.  It was the only surviving example of these mid-nineteenth-century places of worship in the immediate area.

The building was a competent example of the Norman revival style, constructed in coursed Pennant sandstone rubble with ashlar surrounds to windows and doorway, pitched slate roof over.  The interior had retained many features from its time as a chapel.  Pulpit, timber galleries set on cast iron columns with neo-Norman arcading on the front panels dating from 1867.

Wesleyan Chapel, Nenthead, Alston Moor, Cumbria (1873: G II)
Located in a small mining village 5 miles south east of Alston and on the banks of the river Nent lies a fine Wesleyan Chapel.  Built in 1873 to an Italianate style it is remarkably an intact exemplar of its type, the only significant exception being the loss of the gallery seating.  The chapel has great historic and social interest as Methodism was strongly linked to the C19 mining communities within the North Pennines.

Externally it is constructed from sandstone with a Lakeland slate roof, internally it contains exquisite cast-iron work which is unusually ornate, decorative and brightly coloured.

It is currently redundant and showing signs of deterioration, principally through the roof covering.  It is currently owned by a property developer who had previously submitted both planning and listed building consent applications for a failed conversion into residential.

New life is hoped to be created by the diligent and passionate support of local volunteers who in 2014 had been successful in securing £135,000 grant funding from the HLF.  It is intended to convert and reorder the chapel into a café to serve the local community and visitors alongside an art gallery for local artists.

Planning and listed building consent applications have recently been granted full approved by Eden District Council for the project.  More good news is expected from saving this chapel throughout 2015.

Former Wesleyan Methodist Church, Kingswood, Bristol (1843: G II)
Once an integral part of Blackhorse Road Cemetery the chapel now exists as a standing ruin and shell following a devastating arson attack in 2004, now only the masonry walling remains.  It was built originally in 1843 adjacent to the original chapel and school both begun by John Wesley.

In the late 1970’s the cemetery closed to new burials and as such subsequent years of neglect and exposure to developers led to various cycles of land sales and change of ownership.  Today the chapel together with a small section of the cemetery all are in the hands of a private owner.

Awkward access issues contribute to a difficult site demonstrated in 2007 when a plan for conversion to residential was withdrawn.

Local interest and concern is evident, headstones and memorials exist within the immediate vicinity of the chapel but of increasingly deteriorating condition.

The former Wesleyan Chapel remains under possible threat of future sale, currently on the property market for development.

Former Catholic Chapel, Bowling Cemetery, Bradford (1889: G II)
Early in autumn 2014 news of a listed building consent application for the somewhat severe alteration of Bowling Cemetery Chapel was brought to the Society’s attention.

The chapel dated from c.1889 to the designs of architects Morley and Woodhouse of Bradford, contemporary with the design and layout of the cemetery.  After standing vacant since 1987 the condition of the chapel had deteriorated badly, so much so that a significant programme of repairs and maintenance were necessary.

Its isolated location within the cemetery setting had over the years brought many incidents of vandalism and anti-social behaviour.  Bradford Council had investigated marketing of the chapel and searched for a new use, all of which to date had been unsuccessful.

The listed building consent proposals were considerable and significantly harmful, removing the roof covering and structure in its entirety and lowering all standing walls to a height of 1.2m.  A memorial garden is to be created within the remnants of the chapel.

It would seem much more appropriate that the badly damaged roof together with glazing be removed and the remaining standing masonry be consolidated as a ruin.

Latest update received from the planning authority confirms withdrawal of the application after interest from two unnamed parties.

The Society will continue to monitor the chapel’s progress.

Christ Church Baptist Church, Tanworth in Arden, Warwickshire (1877: G II*)
The variety of the Society’s casework is demonstrated by an invitation in 2014 to comment on the proposed upgrading of listing of the Baptist Chapel, received kindly from the Historic Chapels Trust.

The chapel dates from 1877 designed by Birmingham architect, George Ingall and is the last surviving major chapel of his life’s work.  The client is George Frederick Muntz Jnr of Umberslade Hall, a successful industrialist of German origin and a Baptist convert.

It is designed in a strong decorated gothic style, adorned with pinnacles, finials and buttresses and a slender tower and spire.  This style is somewhat unique and unusual for a Baptist chapel which are traditionally simpler and in the classical style.  Its interior is richly appointed and mainly intact.

English Heritage has since confirmed the chapels upgrading to grade II*.