I’ve often been asked when out and about at different events ‘what is the significance of the building?’ and ‘why is it being saved?’ From the religious history of the building and its unique features, to its place in the memories of local people, there’s a lot worth saving.
The Old Chapel holds an important place in the development of non-conformist worship in the local area. It was built in 1800 by Protestant Dissenters who became disillusioned with the established church and it was still in use until 1989. ‘Dissenters’ or ’non-conformists’ were so called because they moved away from existing places of worship. In Upminster, this move was partly to do with a dispute over tithe payments made to the local parish.
It was known as the ‘Church of Protestant Dissenters’ and the covenant was signed on 6 October 1801. There were 6 members at this time but the numbers grew throughout the nineteenth century. In 1911, the congregation got too big for the Old Chapel and they moved to a new property on Station Road in Upminster.
A group called the Plymouth Brethren began to worship at the Old Chapel in 1911, and continued to do so up until 1989. There are members of the congregation in Upminster today, and I have been lucky enough to meet some of them. The Old Chapel holds very fond memories for them and speaking to them has helped to bring the building to life; I have heard stories about the Sunday School, weddings and the services.
The original Old Chapel building was quite different to the building we have today, even before the renovation work started.
It was built by Samuel Hammond in 1800 who was a local builder in Upminster at the time. James Noakes, who was a principal member of the congregation, was one of the main funders for the building work. James Noakes also built Upminster Windmill opposite, forming a close link between the two buildings.
It is timber framed, and is a rare survival of this type of building in Upminster. The façade, which was added in 1847 is also another unique feature. Interesting features inside include the gallery and the pulpit.
Thanks to the hard work of the School, and grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Veolia Havering Riverside Trust the Old Chapel will have a new lease of life. Original features will be preserved whilst new entry points and facilities will make the Old Chapel accessible for all.