In our increasingly secular society, many historic places of worship fall victim to dereliction and decay. Some, however, lead a full and successful second life outside the sphere of religion as they are repurposed for the needs of the 21st century. We take a look at five of the most successful chapel conversions in the UK.
Alma de Cuba, Liverpool
The former St Peter’s Catholic Church in Seel Street, Liverpool, was first built in 1788 and is now a Cuban-themed restaurant which opened in 2005. The fine conversion of Liverpool city centre’s oldest surviving church was undertaken by R2 Architects and had to be handled sensitively due to its Grade II listed building status. Many of the original features have been retained, including some of the 18th and 19th century stained glass, extensive decorative stone and marble work particularly on the altar, a first floor gallery and the king post roof.
Rook Lane Chapel, Frome, Somerset
Originally built in 1707, this Grade I listed building was closed in 1968 and left to deteriorate before it found its new incarnation as office space for the developers, architects firm NVB Architects, and an exhibition and performance space and wedding venue. A sympathetic modern extension houses a café and further office space, and today Rook Lane is a vibrant community arts venue set in a beautifully-restored historic building of great local significance.
If you’re looking for a commercial premises, whether old or new, to create a thriving business talk to a member of our team. Our experienced auction staff can offer you advice and information about forthcoming lots and our commercial team can provide guidance about change of use planning requirements.
Repton Park Health Club, Essex
This most unlikely conversion, from former psychiatric hospital chapel to health club, takes the concept of a spiritual healing to new levels. The floor of the nave of Claybury Hospital, which was first opened in 1893, is now a 25 meter swimming pool and spa area, and treadmill sessions take place beneath its gilded, barrel vault coffered ceiling.
Manchester Climbing Centre, Ardwick, Manchester
Inside this ordinary-looking red brick Victorian church lies a spectacular secret. The former St Benedict’s Catholic Church is now home to Manchester Climbing Centre which makes use of the height of the imposing building for its series of challenging indoor climbing walls. Originally built in 1880 to a design by J S Crowther, it was deconsecrated in 2002 but still retains many of its original features including an impressive rose window and vaulted ceiling.
Lyon and Turnbull Fine Art Auction House, Edinburgh
Once described as ‘the most beautiful saleroom in Britain’ the fine art and antiques auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull are housed in a Greek Revival style church which was built in 1821 by prominent Scottish architect Archibald Elliot. The church went out of use in 1991 and was converted into its current function in 2003. It retains much of its historic Regency charm which has been blended with a modern aesthetic to ensure this Grade A listed building survives for another 200 years.
While many people bemoan the dilapidation and deconsecration of our historic religious buildings, without the willingness of commercial organisations to preserve and convert them into accessible spaces, many would be lost to the ravages of time. We must be thankful that so many are still available for our enjoyment and enrichment.