Historic chapel tucked away in Norwich in the clear

PUBLISHED: 15:21 19 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:05 20 August 2018

The Octagon Chapel, Colegate. Photo: Steve Adams

The Octagon Chapel, Colegate. Photo: Steve Adams


Trustees of a quirky building tucked away in Norwich have high hopes for the future, thanks to a large grant.

The grade II listed Octagon Chapel, on Colegate off Magdalene Street, has experienced problems with its infrastructure, but moves are being made to secure the future of the historic building.

Built with eight sides to enable all of the congregation to see and hear the preacher, the chapel has been in use since 1756.

Historic England had added the idiosyncratic building to a list of structures at risk, and awarded a grant in autumn 2015.

Bruce Chilton, trustee, said: “No doubt Historic England added the Chapel to their list because of the major problems with the roof.

Fergus Muir, Gavin Howell and Bruce Chilton at The Octagon. PHOTO: Sophie SmithFergus Muir, Gavin Howell and Bruce Chilton at The Octagon. PHOTO: Sophie Smith

“I am pleased to tell you that, with a big grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the roof is now fixed and, with luck and good maintenance, sound for another 50 years.

“It is important to Norwich both as a very different religious building and historically.”

The chapel is home to the Unitarians, whose historic member Thomas Martineau founded the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Unitarians have no dogma or creed, and take inspiration from all religious teachings, as well as from science and the arts.

The Roundel at The Octagon. PHOTO: Sophie SmithThe Roundel at The Octagon. PHOTO: Sophie Smith

Gavin Howell, chair of the congregation said: “What makes it a very special building for me is its inclusive philosophy, which is really symbolised by The Octagon Roundel above the pulpit.

“You’ll see reference to six of the great faith traditions around the world, and it just highlights that openness that Unitarians have.”

The chapel not only acts as a religious centre with 65 subscribing members, but also hosts the Octagon Concert Series.

No performers receive a fee or expenses so that all money raised can be donated to good causes.

The Octagon. PHOTO: Sophie SmithThe Octagon. PHOTO: Sophie Smith

In July the chapel hosted drag queen, Marcia D’arc, with proceeds going towards its facilities fund, the works for which began on August 19.

Mr Chilton thanked the people of Norwich for helping to raise money for the new facilities building.

He said: “At last, we are to start building in the coming week. Our beautiful building will always be difficult and expensive to maintain but there is no danger that the Octagon Chapel might close!”

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