This month our Chapel of the Month author is Dr John Clements, current Pastor of the Old Meeting House Congregational Church, Colegate, Norwich. He writes:
Built during a period of religious persecution, the Old Meeting House Congregational Church is one of the most hidden chapels in Norwich – even residents living on the same road are often unaware of its existence!
Very little has been altered to the building except in 1842 part of the graveyard was lost when a Sunday school building was built which has sadly been sold and converted into private dwellings.
By the western gallery is an organ with gilt pipes and a pretty carved case. It was made by Robert Dallam around 1660, but it did not arrive at the Old Meeting until 1838.
The Old Meeting church book is one of the oldest set of non-conformist records in the country, and one of only a handful of surviving non-conformists church books to contain records from the civil war period. (This is now housed in the Norfolk County’s archives.) While Old Meeting itself first gathered itself into church fellowship until June 1644, its origins are earlier.
The founding members of Old Meeting had been followers of the Puritan minister William Bridge. He was ejected from St Peter’s Hungate in 1637 and had to flee to Holland. Until the Act of Toleration in 1689 members of the chapel had met in secret but after the Act was passed land was purchased and the chapel was built in 1693.
The Chapel remains open as an active Congregational Church.
As a Grade I listed building it is kept in good repair as the Chapel entered into a repair-lease with Norwich City Council.
A 32 page booklet, Our Story, was published in 2016 and can be purchased from the Old Meeting House website for £4.00 (which includes post and packing).
A visit to this attractive and fascinating Chapel is well worth it – but for those who aren’t able to make the trip the Old Meeting House website contains a wealth of information too.