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Barracks chapel faces new threat

The Victorian Society is concerned by news that the owner of London’s Chelsea Barracks has applied to English Heritage for immunity from listing for the Victorian Guards’ chapel at the heart of the site.

If the immunity application is successful it would mean the chapel is immune from listing for 5 years.

Listing means a building cannot be demolished or altered without specific consent so if immunity is granted it makes it much easier for a developer to knock the chapel down.

Last year Labour's Architecture Minister, Margaret Hodge went against the advice of English Heritage and turned the chapel down for listing. Now the decision whether or not to grant immunity will go before the Heritage Minister, John Penrose and the Victorian Society is hoping for a more positive outcome.

'We hope that this time around the Minister will trust his advisers at English Heritage', said Edmund Harris, Churches Conservation Adviser at the Victorian Society. 'The chapel and the boundary wall are now the only tangible reminders of the military history of the site. The chapel is architecturally interesting and a rare survivor in London, but if immunity is granted then its future looks bleak.'

The chapel is currently marooned at one end of the cleared barracks site. In June 2009 the Qatari developers withdrew their application just a week before it was due to be considered by Westminster council's planning committee, following intervention by the Prince of Wales. A new scheme for the barracks is being drawn up by the architects Dixon Jones and Michael Squire.

The Victorian Society has written to English Heritage to oppose immunity and to support the chapel being added to the statutory list

History

The chapel was designed by George Morgan in 1861-3 and is a relatively early example of an unusual building type. Unlike hospitals, schools and other institutional complexes 19th-century barracks were frequently without a purpose-built place of worship. Such chapels began to appear in the 1850s as part of a major programme of rebuilding and improvement in response to public outcry at the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. But surviving examples are rare. Two of the finest - Wellington Barracks chapel (GE Street 1877-9) and St George's Garrison Church in Woolwich (TH Wyatt, 1863) survive only in fragmentary form.

Thursday 18 November, 2010

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