Slideshow of the Belper Unitarian Chapel

Updated: Sunday, July 10, 2011   |   Belper Historical & Genealogical Website

This page is a slideshow of the construction and history of Strutt's Unitarian Chapel in Field Row, Belper. (You may need to "allow blocked content" by clicking the top bar in Internet Explorer to see the slideshow. It is safe to do so.)

The Chapel was built about 1786-8 to rehouse the already-established Presbytarian/Unitarian community of Belper, and replaced their old meeting house at the end of what is now called Green Lane.

Also see much more information about the Chapel (here)
We begin with the older Unitarian Chapel at the bottom of Green Lane, Belper. This building was erected around 1721 and in 1740 galleries were added, making it capable of seating 250 people. After the new Chapel was built by Jedediah Strutt, this older building was extended, and then used for the Sunday School in 1855. Here's the plaque over the front door of the old chapel, giving the dates 1721-1855. Going around the back of the old chapel, we see it attached to a commercial property who now use the chapel as part of their enterprise. Notice the metal window in the lower, older, part and the sash window in the upper extension. We are standing in Green Lane car park, which was once the site of Green Hall, residence of the Strutts in Belper. Therefore the Unitarian Chapel would have been on their doorstep. This closer look at the back of the old chapel shows more clearly the metal small-paned window common to older buildings in Belper, and the side door to the chapel. Now we move on to the new Unitarian Chapel in Field Row, Belper. This is the Chapel built by the Strutt family. As you can see, the chapel has a long frontage, and is attached to a tall, three-storey cottage on the right-hand side. This cottage is accessed by a side-gate and a short path. Beyond the cottage gateway and up the path, we can see the cottage more clearly. Looking at the front of the chapel again, focus on the section of front wall at the left-hand side. This is where the coffins once went into the crypt, on a conveyor. Today it is blocked by stones. Go to the next photograph for a close-up. You will see quite plainly the hole in the wall just large enough for the coffin to trundle in on its specially-designed conveyor belt. This section of the chapel was built at a later stage, to house the crypt underneath it and extra seating above. Here is the section of chapel underneath which is the crypt. We are looking at the side of the chapel, from the Field Row gardens. Notice that the arched windows of this later section are different to the square window of the original chapel, which protrudes further out into the chapel yard. Now we are inside the crypt, on the other side of that former opening in the wall, looking toward it. You can see the roller mechanism for handling coffins, and empty spaces awaiting them. Jedediah Strutt and some of his family members are buried down here. Here's one of the burial plaques - dedicated to a Strutt, though I'm afraid I don't know which one. It's pitch black down there, so I couldn't read it. Coming out of the crypt up into the fresh air and sun again, we step back from the door into the little yard at the back of the chapel. Look at the plan beneath to get your bearings. Now look to your right and you'll see the yard door. The yard door leads out into Short Rows. This was long ago the path leading to the front entrance of the chapel, but is now unused except by local residents. Now we're looking at that yard door from the other end of the path, as if walking towards the chapel. Back through the yard door, and into the chapel yard. This shows the porch and kitchen extensions at the back of the chapel, and the back entrance. Unseen to the right of this shot is the crypt door. See the plan below for orientation. Walking beyond the kitchen extension, behind it we find another, unused, door into the chapel. This is in a slightly newer stage of the chapel building, as we shall see in other pictures. In the previous photo, and in this, you can see the join where the original rectangular chapel met the newer addition to the side. If you could go through that door into the chapel, this would be the way you'd come in. We are now standing halfway up an elevated row of pews at the east side of the chapel. See how the arched window is missing a piece of cornice at the top? I'd suggest the arched window was a later modification. Earlier windows were rectangular, as we saw at the front of the chapel. Stepping back from that doorway a little, you can see more clearly the way the original chapel has been opened up, put onto metal pillars, and extended out to the side. Turn around and look the other way, towards the front of the chapel. Here you see the other end of that opening, again with a supporting pillar. This would be a good time to look at the front entrance as it is today, and the gallery above it. I understand that this south entrance was not the original. The entrance was at first in the north end, where the yard is today. We can look at that original entrance in a moment. First, though...'s a close-up of the old clock on the gallery front, still keeping good time. It reputedly part of the original chapel, having been made by the famous Derbyshire clockmaker John Whitehurst 1713-1788). It is said that the Strutt family were also clockmakers. Swivel to your right, and here is the view looking towards the west side of the chapel. Now we are looking at the entire west end of the chapel. The portion right at the back is over the crypt. Like the eastern addition, this part was built out later, for the very purpose of providing a crypt and more room for pews. In the far right-hand corner, unseen behind a wooden screen, is the private entrance that the Strutt family used. Here is the Strutt door on the outside of the building. It is located in the porch in the back yard, and a little stair-well winds over the crypt door and leads into the chapel half-way up the pews. Back inside, we now turn to look down the north side, and we can see that original entrance door I told you about; and beside it is the pulpit. As you see, the original entrance is sandwiched between two windows. On the wall above is a large plaque to the Strutt family. Here is a close-up of the plaque. Thank you for viewing. Perhaps you'd like to browse on the website for a little while longer. There is more information here about the Strutts, the Unitarians and their chapel, and about Belper in general. But if you are leaving now, farewell, and see you again another time.


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© Copyright 2011 Tricia Booth BACK HOME CONTACT

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