National Trust buys Avebury's historic chapel
The former United Reformed Church chapel in the centre of Avebury has been bought by the National Trust as a space to highlight their conservation work and to engage people with the landscapes within the World Heritage Site.
The Chapel had ceased to be a place of Christian worship and its role as a Tourist Information Centre ended when Wiltshire Council withdrew its funding in 2011. The sale was concluded early in May - as marlborough.news reported. But the buyer has only now been revealed.
The Grade Two Listed chapel was put up for sale with an asking price of £150,000 by the United Reformed Church who could not afford the sums of money needed for restoration and renovation.
The National Trust stated that: "There has been much local concern about the future of the building, which is greatly valued by the local community including the National Trust."
There had been fears it could have been bought by a developer and turned into a house. A local group had tried to buy it to turn it into a centre for those of all faiths who visit the Neolithic site, but negotiations broke down.
Jan Tomlin, General Manager for the National Trust Wiltshire Landscape, explained that the Trust's plan is to develop 'the unique and beautiful building' into a welcome and information space for both local communities and visitors: "We’ll be working with World Heritage Site partners to showcase the essential work undertaken to conserve and protect the WHS, and will also offer advice and information on wildlife and heritage."
"The initial plan is to undertake sympathetic renovation, while retaining the special character of the 300 year old building and grounds." The grounds are important as they include some graves and a Quiet Garden.
The Avebury chapel - founded in 1670 - is unique as the only place of Christian worship located within a prehistoric stone circle. It is partly built from broken standing stones.
It is also one of the few remaining examples of a ‘Five Mile Chapel’ - built when non-conformist preachers were forced by Act of Parliament to live five miles away from a parish from which they had been expelled.
Jan Tomlin added: "We will also seek to establish the building as a space within the village for talks and presentations by specialists in ecology, archaeology and heritage, to promote conservation and the National Trust’s core work in the outdoors."