We’ve seen in a previous Urban Ghosts report that shifting demographics, population decline and increased secularisation have had devastating consequences for large parish churches as well as small rural chapels. But while ruin and dereliction are so often the unintended consequences of abandonment, a little inspiration and imagination has seen some former churches repurposed for modern use. We explore some fantastic examples of adaptive reuse here, from contemporary homes to bars, bookshops, studios and even a garage.
Old chapels were often simple and austere places that eschewed creature comforts and focussed purely on the worship of God. But this Gothic chapel in Kingston, Devon, has been transformed into an ultra-comfortable fishing lodge. According to Mark Robinson, writing on Flickr, the chapel/lodge is available for “£200 per person per day, including bass fishing and the best food you’ll ever eat!” As of 2009 it was on the market and may now have become the perfect second home.
The Pitcher and Piano bar in Nottingham is arguably one of the most impressive church conversions in Britain. Established in 1687 and rebuilt considerably by 1876, Nottingham’s “cathedral of drinking” served as a Unitarian chapel until 1982 when it was converted to the Nottingham Lace Museum. After that venture proved financially unviable, the chapel – which looks more like a traditional parish church – became the popular Pitcher and Piano. It may be one of Nottingham’s most inspired pubs, but Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, where Richard the Lionheart is said to have called in for a pint en route to the Holy Land, is certainly the most famous.
This Primitive Methodist chapel in the Lincolnshire village of Normanby-le-Wold was abandoned before being converted into a simple yet imaginative garage. Wayside chapels like this once served rural folk and travellers, but many have fallen into disuse in our increasingly secular times. While abandonment may bestow a haunting quality, it’s nice to see this small slice of rural history creatively converted for modern use. The chapel stands alongside the 147 mile long Viking Way footpath, which also passes the abandoned control tower at RAF Coleby Grange.
The Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht proves that a little imagination really does go a long way. The fortunes of this glorious 800-year-old Dominican church have been decidedly mixed since closing its doors to the congregation. Sitting abandoned and overgrown for years before a spell as a bicycle storage facility, the church was overhauled by Dutch architects Merkx+Girod to become what the Guardian newspaper called: “A bookshop made in heaven”.
(Images: Travelet, reproduced with permission)
Have you ever considered converting a church for your own personal living space but need inspiration? Look no further than the magnificent St. Nicholas Church House in Kyloe, Northumberland. This Grade II listed Georgian church dates from 1792 and features a west tower with battlements and ornate stained glass window. With spectacular views over the Northumberland coast and Holy Island, the historic building is a perfect combination of modern open-plan living and old English heritage. And while it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, St. Nicholas Church House even comes complete with its own graveyard.
The interior of this former chapel in Southampton’s Old Cemetery may look a little busy, but “creative conversions” don’t come much more creative than those used in the design industry. According to the website, Design Chapel offers “desk space to individuals and small companies, giving the opportunity to work in a wonderful creative environment with likeminded and inspiring fellow artists and designers.” The once derelict chapel, which dates to the 1840s, retains its original character and features alongside modern fixtures and fittings. Perhaps the grand yet deteriorating chapels in Sheffield’s historic General Cemetery could be put to similar use?