Fund raising begins to purchase Avebury Chapel
A local group has set up a charitable trust to buy the disused Avebury Chapel from the United Reformed Church. They need to raise £150,000 to cover the purchase of the building and legal fees - and to begin its refurbishment.
The chapel - Grade Two Listed and a unique and historically important building with a Quiet Garden behind it - once housed the Avebury Tourist Information Centre, until Wiltshire Council decided not to fund such centres. And its future had been the subject of some controversy within the village.
The Avebury Chapel Steering Group has conducted a consultation in the village which gave overwhelming support to the project.
They have now set up the Avebury Sacred Trust as a company limited by guarantee and have applied to the Charities Commission to formalise the trust. And they have appointed a solicitor to negotiate with the United Reformed Church's property department.
Once refurbished, the Chapel will be used as a centre for spirituality and interfaith understanding. It is also affiliated to the International Quiet Garden Movement providing, even when the Chapel is closed, a tranquil space for reflection.
The Chapel is of historical importance as an early example of a Dissenters’ meeting house and the only one built within a prehistoric stone circle. Following the five-mile act of 1665, dissenting clergy were forbidden to preach within five miles of their former parish churches.
Ministers from Marlborough, Devizes, Calne and Chiseldon and members of their congregations decided on a common point just outside the prohibited area. This point coincided with the centre of Avebury stone circle. Each Sunday people walked - summer and winter - across the fields to the Chapel.
The Avebury Sacred Trust is asking for help both in raising the money and in planning for the refurbishment. There is some haste needed in all this as the building is in fairly urgent need of repair.