An unusual Georgian Chapel which began life as part of a Napoleonic era barracks has been restored in Charlwood Surrey
Providence Chapel in Charlwood, Surrey, was originally built in 1797 as the guardhouse of a barracks in Horsham for troops assembled to repel an expected invasion of a French army under Emperor Napoleon. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the Horsham Barracks was decommissioned and its guardroom moved lock, stock and barrel to Charlwood on horse-drawn wagons where it was opened as a non-conformist chapel.
Over the centuries the chapel (which was founded as Charlwood Union Chapel) had a thriving congregation but it inevitably began to dwindle in the twentieth century and, when the last remaining member of the congregation died in 2013, the building was put up for sale.
By then the wooden chapel, with its original weatherboard exterior, veranda and shuttered windows, had become a picturesque if rather dilapidated Grade 2* listed local treasure that many regarded as looking more like a new England shack than a Georgian chapel. Its parlous condition saw it placed on the Historic England list of Buildings at Risk.
Now thanks to a local trust the Charlwood Society, who took the building on for £1 in 2013, and funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, this charming building and its stories have been preserved for future generations.
Repairs costing around £260,000, largely paid for by the HLF, have seen the chapel transformed into a study centre for the nearby Charlwood Primary School with displays covering its long history – from its role in the Napoleonic Wars to its role as a Baptist place of worship.
Dramatic displays cover the history of the barracks and the soldiers of the Napoleonic period, how the building was moved along muddy lanes and its history as a chapel, at first open to any non-conformist preacher then a Strict Baptist place of worship.
Also covered is the story of Charlwood School since its set up in 1620 by Rector John Bristow in a cottage (now known as ‘Bristow’s Cottage’), before moving into its present building in 1913 and, in the last few years, changing from an Infant School to a Primary School.
But as well as being an unusual survivor from the Georgian period, for military historians the building offers a tangible link to one of the iconic regiments of the Napoleonic period, the 95th Regiment – the Greencoat Rifles. The Horsham Barracks saw the formation of that regiment, which went on to set new standards in the British Army that many see as a pivotal factor in the eventual defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo in 1815.
See www.providencechapelcharlwood.org/ for more information.