Sav­ing an old chapel at the heart of brand new flats

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

con­sul­ta­tion with residents.

When the site was sold, the chapel had been stripped bare, and a se­nior of­fi­cer stated that it was of “no ar­chi­tec­tural or his­tor­i­cal in­ter­est what­so­ever”. De­spite this dis­missal, the her­itage value of the chapel, and in par­tic­u­lar two tile pan­els, was even­tu­ally recog­nised five years later. In 2012, the chapel was awarded a Grade II list­ing that pro­tected its fu­ture ex­is­tence.

Built in 1859, the small Ro­manesque-style chapel is all that re­mains of the mas­sive bar­racks build­ings de­signed by Ge­orge Mor­gan af­ter the Crimean War. For many sol­diers it was not just a place of wor­ship, but a com­mu­nity cen­tre. Hun­dreds of army per­son­nel were mar­ried and had chil­dren chris­tened here, and it sur­vived bomb­ings in the Sec­ond World War as well as the demolition of the orig­i­nal Vic­to­rian bar­racks.

The pan­els, which have been restored and re­main in situ, bear the names of sol­diers killed in ac­tion in the 1880s and are of par­tic­u­lar sig­nif­i­cance for be­ing among the first plaques ded­i­cated to non-of­fi­cer-class sol­diers.

“The chapel has a se­ries of re­mark­able tiled pan­els com­mem­o­rat­ing pri­vate guards­men who died be­tween 1885 and 1888,” Del­cia Keate, English Her­itage’s se­nior des­ig­na­tion ad­viser, said when the chapel was listed in 2012. “Memo­ri­als to named pri­vate sol­diers were un­com­mon in the late-19th cen­tury, and th­ese show how the most jun- ior ranks in the Vic­to­rian Army were grad­u­ally be­ing ac­corded the re­spect of re­mem­brance.”

Francesca Wilkin­son, se­nior de­sign man­ager for Qatari Diar, has led the team that has un­der­taken the restora­tion, in­clud­ing the or­der for the new bell from John Tay­lor & Co, whose pre­vi­ous com­mis­sions in­clude bells for St Paul’s Cathe­dral and York Min­ster. “The restora­tion has been a two-year project and it has in­volved bring­ing in many spe­cialised trades, some of whom still work in a very hands-on, back-ofthe-en­ve­lope fash­ion,” she says.

“We have cre­ated a new set of win­dows to re­place some of­fen­sive frost­ed­glass ones that had been in­stalled fol­low­ing bomb dam­age in the Sec­ond World War. The rose win­dow has been painstak­ingly re­paired and cleaned, and it has be­come the mo­tif for Chelsea Bar­racks. We have also com­mis­sioned a red rose from Kew Gar­dens which will be planted around the new build­ings.”

Ar­chi­tec­turally, the lux­u­ri­ous new apart­ment blocks in the first three phases of the project, de­signed by Squire and Part­ners, take their cues from no­table man­sions in nearby Bel­gravia, and are lower and more tra­di­tional than the steel and glass apart­ments in the orig­i­nal pro­pos­als. Two-bed­room apart­ments at Chelsea Bar­racks start from £5.25mil­lion, and town­houses are avail­able from £37mil­lion.

Among other no­table changes in the mas­ter plan is the creation of a much larger pub­lic realm that will in­clude gar­dens and cy­cle­ways, as well as shops and restau­rants. A sculp­ture in­spired by Lon­don’s old­est botan­i­cal gar­den – the Chelsea Physic Gar­den – has been com­mis­sioned from Bri­tish artist Con­rad Shawcross, while the chapel it­self is to be­come a new art gallery.

“Chelsea Bar­racks has placed a sig­nif­i­cant em­pha­sis on both crafts­man­ship and art in its plans for the com­mu­nity,” says Lee Hall­man, head of de­sign at Qatari Diar.

It will be the first time for 150 years that the pub­lic will be able to hear the bells chime, and have ac­cess to this site, which has played such an im­por­tant mil­i­tary role in Bri­tish his­tory.

The bell, main, that is in the chapel at Chelsea Bar­racks, be­low right, was made by John Tay­lor & Co, the last sur­viv­ing bell maker in the UK, be­low

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