The Chapel - Keeping it for the Community / by Jamie Warne

This lovely Methodist Chapel (built in 1882) was up for sale because of a dwindling congregation. I wanted to keep it in community hands, but I only had a week to come up with a feasible solution and put my case forward.

Sympathetic Design

Being located on the north western fringe of the New Forest (a National Park), Woodgreen is a pretty, community driven village. Chocolate box cottages, a large common, and free roaming animals make this village a crucial part of the New Forest atmosphere.

With that in mind, the exterior fabric of the building was left largely unaltered, windows would be updated with likewise replacements, and the lean-to roofs updated to modern standards whilst keeping the same profiles.

Inside, things have changed rather drastically, although the changes are as sympathetic as possible to this piece of religious architecture. With the interior open to the rafters it left plenty of headroom for the addition of a mezzanine level. I also wanted to be able to split the space up when needed, but was also mindful that religious design principles suggest to keep the main space as open as possible. To this end, I decided to build a stage 700mm high at the eastern end with an accordion room divider that can either be left open to form one large space, or closed to provide a meeting room whilst still leaving half of the structure available for other uses. Both rooms still being left open to the rafters.

The Plan

Beneath the stage is where storage for the main room is located - tables and chairs can be slid out from underneath when required. Thankfully there was already a rear entrance, meaning both rooms can be used completely independently without having to disturb each other. The only shared space being the kitchen and WC which can be accessed from either room.

The small kitchen is enough for basic catering needs, and benefits from natural light through the existing window. Meanwhile, the bathroom has been widened and now benefits from disabled facilities. All doorways have been widened to at least 800mm openings. The raised floor level in the meeting/practice room means it is now possible to see out of the window in that room, and also creates a perfect performance space for the main hall. As always the case with my designs, the interior is mainly painted white, with pops of colour from furniture and fittings.

End notes

Sadly, the chapel came down to a bidding process - meaning money was the only factor relevant in the sale of this building. The building is now in the hands of a villager who plans to turn it into a holiday let.