The cemetery chapels survey

In February 2009 we called for help to document the state of cemetery chapels around the country. We heard about boarded up and derelict chapels; chapels converted into homes or used for storage; as well as those still in use for worship. Now an advisory group at the Ministry of Justice is interested in our findings and we’d like your input to help bring the survey up to date.

Photo Credit: The Victorian Society.

Garden cemeteries were a nineteenth century phenomenon and at their heart were usually two chapels; one Anglican and one non-conformist. Yet these architecturally interesting buildings have been largely forgotten and too many are now boarded up or derelict.

The findings of our survey suggest a depressing picture of neglect, with occasional glimmers of hope. We still don’t know the scale of the problem; no-one even knows exactly how many chapels there are, but what is known is that up half of all the green space in some local authorities is taken up by cemeteries, and yet they are barely used, and the chapels which were designed to be attractive and accessible to the whole community are often defunct.

Director of the The Victorian Society, Dr Ian Dungavell said: ‘In some suburban areas the cemetery chapels may be the only architecturally significant buildings in the neighbourhood, and it’s important they survive.’

The leading cemetery designer of the Victorian age was John Claudius Loudon. He envisaged that when the cemeteries were full they would close as burial grounds and re-open as public parks.

The survey is still active so if you haven’t responded the The Victorian Society would like to know how you think cemetery chapels should be used in order to secure their future.

You can download a copy of our questionnaire and send it back to us. Please include an accurate address for the cemetery.

You can see some of the cemetery chapels we know about on the map, but if your local chapel doesn’t feature please do let us know. Click on a blue marker to see the chapel. Click + to zoom in for an aerial view.

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