Proprietary Chapels

Leamington Episcopal Chapel

christ_church_02This was, in 1825, the first of the proprietary chapels or chapel of ease, built in Leamington. The chosen site across the top of the Parade, was at the opposite end of the town from the parish church and it was built on open land, which soon became the centre of a major development of villa style housing at the north end of the town. Edward Willes provided the land for the chapel, and Bertie Greatheed gave the land for the road. This is now called Clarendon Avenue, but originally was known as South Parade. The resulting Norman revival chapel became the private property of the vicar of Leamington and cost 6d to enter, with servants half price. The Rev. Craig leased the chapel when he arrived at the parish church, and promptly abolished the entrance fee.

In 1856 the Rev. Craig’s lease ended with acrimony and the Rev. Bickmore took on the chapel. He had the building refurbished and renamed it Christchurch. During its lifetime the chapel passed through the full spectrum of church politics. The Rev. Bickmore decided that he should avoid every ‘extreme of doctrine and ritual’. The next incumbent, Rev. Nicholson, who took over in 1879, preferred a ‘High-Church style of service’ to cater for the fashionable local congregation. Whilst Mr. Dale, who bought the lease in 1881, decided that the chapel should be used for Evangelical purposes, and consequently gave Dr. Rev, Nicholson and his ‘High Church’ services notice to quit. Dr. Rev. Nicholson then purchased St. Michael’s and All Angels on Warwick St. and renamed it the church of St. Alban the Martyr.

christ_church_01By 1951 the chapel needed extensive repairs and the bishop refused to appoint a minister so the congregation, along with that of St. Luke’s, Holly Walk who had recently joined Christchurch, moved to St. Mark’s Milverton and the building was demolished, with a park created on the site. Leamington lost a landmark church that dominated the view along the main street, the Parade, although it can still be seen on many old postcards and photographs.

St. Luke’s

St. Luke’s was the next of the proprietary chapels to be built in Leamington, sited in Augusta Place; it was still north of the river, but far closer to the old town. It is again set in the midst of several streets of imposing, terraced villas. The chapel was built in 1850 to the design of Mr. Squirhill in ‘Early-English style’. The Rev. Craig was once more involved in the opening for the proprietor, Rev. Clay. The Rev. Clay was decidedly Low Church, as was his successor Rev. Fisher who regarded ‘all ceremonies, ornaments and ‘high church’ practices…as alien to the Church of England’. The next proprietor, Rev. Dance, had problems over the ownership of the chapel building in 1896. Consequently he and his congregation moved to the Holly Walk Chapel which the Rev. Dance had purchased for £2,000, where the congregation remained until around 1947 when they moved to Christchurch, and then on to St. Mark’s, when that too was closed.

St. Luke’s chapel building was sold in 1899 and continued in use for Christian worship by various, assorted Christian assemblies until around 1936 when the Christian Scientists took over the building. They found that the chapel was crumbling so in 1958 it was demolished and a new chapel was built for the Christian Scientists, reputedly on the still crumbling foundations!

St. Alban’s

st_albans_churchSt. Alban’s owes its origins to one of the Rev. Craig’s several doomed schemes to build a Chapel of Ease at the rear of the parish church for poor people! This corrugated iron chapel was officially called the ‘The New Opposition Church’, or more colloquially the ‘Vicar’s New Shop’. The building was moved in 1864 to the corner of Warwick St. and Portland St., where it became known as the Iron Chapel.

After several arguments over the ownership of the building, funds were raised to rebuild in brick, to a design by J.Cundall, and the resulting church was reopened as St. Michael’s and All Angels. By 1881 Dr. Rev. Nicholson had bought the church, after his eviction from Christchurch, and renamed it St. Alban’s. In 1902 the death of Dr. Nicholson led to the church passing into the care of the Leamington vicar.

By the 1930s St. Alban’s was known as an Anglo-Catholic church, but it had two other claims to fame. One was the glorious copper-coated spire ‘which glistened in the sun, but later ….went green as copper does in the air’. The other was that the building was never consecrated, the original congregation decided to hold off until the debt was paid off. When this was achieved in the 1920s it was decided that the church was doing fine without consecration so why bother.

The church finally closed in 1964 and the building was demolished in 1968, to be replaced by yet another mundane office block.

Tower Street Chapel

towerstThis appears to initially have been a ‘proprietary’ chapel, which enjoyed limited use as such. There is a record of use by the Weslyans and the Roman Catholics, which if true suggests a date for its erection circa 1820. Both of these congregations soon established their own chapels, which led to the Tower Street building being put to other uses. Eventually it seems to have been turned into four cottages, after a short spell as a boarding house. The building has now been demolished to make way for new houses.

Any further information of on the Tower St. chapel, especially its early days, would be gratefully received.

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