WELCOME

The repair and restoration of the historic Providence Chapel in Charlwood, Surrey, has been completed thanks to a generous Heritage Lottery grant.

The wooden chapel was originally built in 1797 as the guardhouse of a barracks in Horsham for troops assembled to repel an expected invasion of a French army under Emperor Napoleon. In 1815 it was moved to Charlwood on horse-drawn wagons and opened as a non-conformist chapel.

The restoration of the chapel has been organised by the Providence Chapel Charlwood Trust. Trust Chairman Brendon Sewill, says:

‘This is a unique and remarkable building. There is none other like it in Britain. That it has survived for 220 years is almost miraculous.’

When, in 2013, the last remaining member of the chapel congregation died, the chapel was put up for sale. The newly formed Trust was able to buy it for £1. The repairs have cost around £260,000.  The main use of the chapel in future will be as a study centre for the nearby Charlwood primary school. Head teacher, Vicky Lanham, says: ‘The old chapel will be a splendid resource for the school and will, we hope, instil into generations of children a pride and fascination in local history.’

The skilled repair work has been undertaken by craftsmen from Riverside Construction from Tonbridge. Trust member, Chris Mitchell, commented: ‘After 20 years as a barracks, and after 200 years on its present site, the wooden chapel was in a poor state of repair. Indeed, when inspected we found it was close to collapse.’

The big beam around the base of the wall, the sole plate, was rotten; it has now been completely replaced. The 50 or so wall uprights (studs) were all rotten for the first two or three feet. New wood has been spliced into every one.  The veranda posts had sunk, causing the roof timbers to crack. Each timber has been repaired with a separately designed metal brace, and a new roof structure constructed. Four of the veranda pillars had to be replaced. The roof has been re-slated. The ceiling was falling down and has had to be partially replaced. Other work has included the provision of a new kitchen and a disabled toilet, a new floor, a new electricity supply and phone line, new storage sheds and improved drainage.’

The chapel is listed Grade 2* which puts it among the 6% most important historic buildings in England. It has been on the Historic England list of Buildings at Risk. Most of the cost of the restoration has been met by the Heritage Lottery Fund but grants have also been received from Mole Valley Council, the Surrey Historic Buildings Trust, The Architectural Heritage Fund, Gatwick Airport and other donors.Trust treasurer Tony Kett says: ‘The Heritage Lottery Fund have done us proud. First, they gave us £9,000 to get started. Then £42,000 to enable us to employ top-class architects, assess the work needed, and to get planning permission. And now they’ve paid 88% of the cost of the restoration. So, the millions of people buying a lottery ticket have each helped in a small way to save this historic building for the future.’

Chairman of the Trust, Brendon Sewill, said: ‘This is a huge boost for preserving a vital part of our village history. Charlwood has a wealth of history – a fine Norman church and over 80 listed buildings of which the Chapel is one of the most important. We are delighted that generations of children will now be able to absorb its history.’

The restoration work includes an exhibition designed by the world-renowned museum expert, Barry Mazur. The dramatic displays show the history of the barracks with the rowdy randy soldiers, how the building was moved along muddy lanes, and its history as a chapel, at first open to any non-conformist preacher then Baptist. Also, the story of Charlwood School since it was set up in 1620 by Rector John Bristow in a cottage (now known as ‘Bristow’s Cottage’), moving into its present building in 1913 and, in the last few years, changing from an Infant School to a Primary School.  Barry says: ‘My hope is that the exhibition will bring this amazing building alive for the children and for visitors for many years to come.’

Military historians have recognised that the Horsham barracks saw the formation of the 95th Regiment – the Greencoat Rifles - and that the regiment went on to set new standards which led to Army reforms and contributed to the defeat of Napoleon. 

A Grand Re-Opening is planned for Saturday 6 April (date to be confirmed) when the 2/95 Re-Enactors will stage a Napoleonic display. 

© The Providence Chapel Charlwood Trust Ltd - The Trust is a registered charity (Registered Charity Number 1163909) and a company limited by guarantee (Registered in England No. 08302022)

Designed by - RB Graphics & Print