Upper Brook Street Chapel, Manchester

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Upper Brook Street Chapel
Upper Brook Street Chapel 2017 006.jpg
The chapel in 2017
Affiliation Unitarian, then Baptist, then Jehovah's Witness, then Islamic
District Chorlton-on-Medlock
LocationUpper Brook Street, Manchester, England
Geographic coordinates 53°28′9.44″N2°13′53.28″W / 53.4692889°N 2.2314667°W / 53.4692889; -2.2314667 Coordinates: 53°28′9.44″N2°13′53.28″W / 53.4692889°N 2.2314667°W / 53.4692889; -2.2314667
Architect(s) Sir Charles Barry
Style Neogothic

The Upper Brook Street Chapel, also known as the Islamic Academy, the Unitarian Chapel and the Welsh Baptist Chapel, is a former chapel with an attached Sunday School on the east side of Upper Brook Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Greater Manchester, England. It is said to be the first neogothic Nonconformist chapel, having been constructed for the British Unitarians between 1837 and 1839, at the very beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria. It was designed by Sir Charles Barry, later architect of the Palace of Westminster.

Chapel Religious place of fellowship attached to a larger institution

A chapel is a Christian place of prayer and worship that is usually relatively small, and is distinguished from a church. The term has several senses. Firstly, smaller spaces inside a church that have their own altar are often called chapels; the Lady Chapel is a common type of these. Secondly, a chapel is a place of worship, sometimes non-denominational, that is part of a building or complex with some other main purpose, such as a school, college, hospital, palace or large aristocratic house, castle, barracks, prison, funeral home, cemetery, airport, or a military or commercial ship. Thirdly, chapels are small places of worship, built as satellite sites by a church or monastery, for example in remote areas; these are often called a chapel of ease. A feature of all these types is that often no clergy were permanently resident or specifically attached to the chapel. Finally, for historical reasons, chapel is also often the term used for independent or nonconformist places of worship in Great Britain—outside the established church, even where in practice they operate as a parish church.

Chorlton-on-Medlock inner city area of Manchester, England

Chorlton-on-Medlock is an inner city area of Manchester, England.

Greater Manchester County of England

Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county and combined authority area in North West England, with a population of 2.8 million. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the cities of Manchester and Salford. Greater Manchester was created on 1 April 1974 as a result of the Local Government Act 1972, and designated a functional city region on 1 April 2011.


A listed building since 3 October 1974 (currently Grade II*), it is owned by Manchester City Council and was on the Buildings at Risk Register, rated as "very bad". It was partially demolished in 2006. The Victorian Society placed the building on a list of ten most threatened buildings in England and Wales. It was restored and converted to student accommodation in 2017 by Buttress Architects.

Listed building Protected historic structure in the United Kingdom

A listed building, or listed structure, is one that has been placed on one of the four statutory lists maintained by Historic England in England, Historic Environment Scotland in Scotland, Cadw in Wales, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in Northern Ireland.

Manchester City Council Local government body in England

Manchester City Council is the local government authority for Manchester, a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. It is composed of 96 councillors, three for each of the 32 electoral wards of Manchester. The council is controlled by the Labour Party and led by Sir Richard Leese. The opposition is formed by the Liberal Democrats and led by former Manchester Withington MP John Leech. Joanne Roney is the chief executive. Many of the council's staff are based at Manchester Town Hall.



The chapel was designed by Sir Charles Barry, [1] shortly before he designed the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament). It was constructed between 1837 and 1839 out of sandstone, with a slate roof. It is in English neogothic style. The building has seven narrow bays, with buttresses and a lancet in each bay. The west end has a giant moulded archway, with an arched doorway at the ground floor with a window above. On the east end there is a rose window. The corners are square, with pinnacles. The inside of the chapel had galleries on three sides, and a ribbed, vaulted ceiling. The attached two-storey Sunday School is in the same style as the chapel, and has a triple-gabled north side, with large arched windows on the first floor. It also has a canted apse on the west end, and a lean-to porch.

Charles Barry English architect

Sir Charles BarryFRS RA was an English architect, best known for his role in the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster in London during the mid-19th century, but also responsible for numerous other buildings and gardens. He is known for his major contribution to the use of Italianate architecture in Britain, especially the use of the Palazzo as basis for the design of country houses, city mansions and public buildings. He also developed the Italian Renaissance garden style for the many gardens he designed around country houses.

Palace of Westminster Meeting place of the Parliament of the United Kingdom,

The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Commonly known as the Houses of Parliament after its occupants, the Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London, England.

Sandstone A clastic sedimentary rock composed mostly of sand-sized particles

Sandstone is a clastic sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized mineral particles or rock fragments.

The building marked a charge in the style of Nonconformist worship locations. Previously these were mostly built with brick, and were plain, with the grander tending towards Greek architecture. Said to be the first neogothic Nonconformist chapel, Manchester's Unitarian Chapel was preceded by the Congregational Chapel in March, Cambridgeshire, [2] which was constructed in 1836 and is also in the neogothic style. Chapels built following the construction of these two resembled parish churches more than the former style. [3]

Brick Block or a single unit of a ceramic material used in masonry construction

A brick is building material used to make walls, pavements and other elements in masonry construction. Traditionally, the term brick referred to a unit composed of clay, but it is now used to denote rectangular units made of clay-bearing soil, sand, and lime, or concrete materials. Bricks can be joined together using mortar, adhesives or by interlocking them. Bricks are produced in numerous classes, types, materials, and sizes which vary with region and time period, and are produced in bulk quantities. Two basic categories of bricks are fired and non-fired bricks.

Nonconformist Protestant Christians in Wales and England who did not follow the Church of England

In English church history, a Nonconformist was a Protestant who did not "conform" to the governance and usages of the established Church of England. Broad use of the term was precipitated after the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, when the Act of Uniformity 1662 re-established the opponents of reform within the Church of England. By the late 19th century the term specifically included the Reformed Christians, plus the Baptists and Methodists. The English Dissenters such as the Puritans who violated the Act of Uniformity 1559—typically by practising radical, sometimes separatist, dissent—were retrospectively labelled as Nonconformists.

March, Cambridgeshire Town and civil parish in Cambridgeshire, England

March is a Fenland market town and civil parish in the Isle of Ely area of Cambridgeshire, England. It was the county town of the Isle of Ely which was a separate administrative county from 1889 to 1965. It is now the administrative centre of Fenland District Council.

The building was listed on 3 October 1974, and is currently classed as Grade II*. [1]



The chapel was originally constructed for the Unitarians. It replaced the Mosley Street Chapel (built 1789, [4] demolished 1836 [5] ) upon its completion for baptisms, burials and marriages. [6] The chapel was used for burial rites [7] until 1882, the chapel had a graveyard from the outset, to both the north and south sides of the chapel. Restrictions were placed on this in 1856 and prohibited in 1882 except for the removal of remains from graves on the north side to brick vaults on the south side of the chapel.[ citation needed ] Baptisms were performed until at least 1912, and marriages until at least 1916. [7]

Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement named for its belief that the God in Christianity is one person, as opposed to the Trinity which in many other branches of Christianity defines God as three persons in one being: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Unitarian Christians, therefore, believe that Jesus was inspired by God in his moral teachings, and he is a savior, but he was not a deity or God incarnate. As is typical of dissenters, Unitarianism does not constitute one single Christian denomination, but rather refers to a collection of both extant and extinct Christian groups, whether historically related to each other or not, which share a common theological concept of the oneness nature of God.

Mosley Street street in Manchester, United Kingdom

Mosley Street is a street in Manchester, England. It runs between its junction with Piccadilly Gardens and Market Street to St Peter's Square. Beyond St Peter's Square it becomes Lower Mosley Street. It is the location of several Grade II and Grade II* listed buildings.

Ministers at the chapel include John James Tayler (until 1853), [4] William Henry Herford (1866–70), [8] Philip Wicksteed (circa 1890), [9] John Trevor (1890–91, left to start The Labour Church) [5] [10] and Edward Walker Sealy (1910-???). [8]

Other denominations

The chapel was sold in 1928 due to changes in the district, [5] and was subsequently used as a Welsh Baptist Chapel. [1] The chapel was then used as a Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall in the early 1970s. [11] The building has been owned by Manchester City Council since the 1970s, [12] who purchased land alongside Upper Brook Street with the aim of constructing a large motorway into Manchester, which was never realised. [13]

Both the chapel and Sunday School were occupied by the Islamic Academy of Manchester between 1974 and 2006, when it was used as a mosque, teaching centre and for outreach work in the Asian community. [14]

Dereliction and rebirth

The chapel without its roof in 2008 Upper Brook Street Chapel 9.jpg
The chapel without its roof in 2008
The Chapel being redeveloped in 2017 Upper Brook Street Chapel 2017 002.jpg
The Chapel being redeveloped in 2017

By the beginning of the 21st century, the future of the building was looking increasingly uncertain. [15] The chapel had become unsafe, and substantial money was needed for emergency repairs. [14] An unsuccessful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding to repair the building was made by the Islamic Academy in 2003. In 2001 and 2005 the City Council commissioned structural advice regarding the building, prior to removing most of the roof, with the agreement of English Heritage. [12]

Parts of the chapel were demolished at the start of 2006 on safety grounds, with scaffolding holding up some other sections. By 2010 the chapel was on the Buildings at Risk Register, rated as "very bad". [16] The Victorian Society placed it on a list of ten most threatened buildings in England and Wales. [17]

In October 2010 Manchester City Council announced that it was in discussion with a developer to renovate the building and bring it back into use. [13] In August 2013 the council received a planning application from the Church Converts (Manchester) to repair the building and convert it into apartments; the application was granted in February 2014. [18] The redevelopment by CZero Developments consists of 73 private apartments in both the chapel and the Sunday school. [19]

From September 2017, the building has been operating as student accommodation, with a gym, cinema room, study areas and a lounge. [20]

See also

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    Heritage at Risk: Welsh+Baptist+Chapel
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