An inspirational project designed to bring members of Chichester’s community together in their shared history and communal future has moved an important step closer to completion. Chichester District Council has granted Chichester Community Development Trust (CCDT) planning permission to convert the beautiful Graylingwell Chapel, previously part of the Graylingwell Hospital, into a multi-purpose heritage activity centre and stylish café. It is hoped that works will begin in April 2019.
Focussing on the health and wellbeing of today’s local community, the Heritage at the Heart of Graylingwell project reflects on the unique history of the site, whilst also engaging newcomers with events, talks and a space for people to meet family and friends in a modern café environment. Built in 1890 the historic building, designed by Sir Arthur Bloomfield, will intrigue many with its snapshots of life from a century ago, including the separate entrances for men and women.
Director of CCDT, Clare de Bathe commented “This news is our ultimate Christmas present – the chapel represents an opportunity to combine the fascinating tales of Graylingwell’s past with modern activities that will entertain, support and nurture the lives of today’s local community, who are in great need of affordable and accessible venues. We’re incredibly excited that our dream of transforming this heritage site into a warm, welcoming environment can now come to life.”
Whilst the hospital, which was pivotal in caring for the mental and physical health of those injured in both world wars, was closed in 2001, its chapel will play an essential role in sustaining the area’s history, and engaging future generations. It will redevelop a site that served as a place of refuge and reflection for those being treated for mental health issues throughout a hundred-year period, into an engaging venue for learning and social interaction. That history will be brought to life in an activity centre within the chapel, where visitors will be able to read and listen to the fascinating stories of families who were cared for, and staff who worked at the site known originally as the West Sussex County Lunatic Asylum. Many stories are told in the authentic voices of those connected to the site.
The main, central space will host events, exhibitions, musical performances and cinema listings amongst other activities. Fusing history with contemporary styles, the traditional architecture and stain glassed windows will be accompanied by modern art and furniture, with underfloor heating to ensure a welcoming environment. Supporting the positive development of the chapel’s youngest visitors, children will be able to enjoy a dedicated interactive play area, allowing parents to enjoy some rest and enjoy the site’s activities.
The café, to be built as a modern extension to the western side of the building, will not only provide a welcome resting place for those enjoying the heritage site, but also become a venue for local events and entertaining. Providing customers with food sourced from local producers, events will include baking and community led activities.
Work will be funded by grants provided by several sources, with the hope of including Heritage Lottery funds applied for earlier this year. In addition, capital appeals will begin in January 2019.
Early events include a Community Cinema night in the space as it looks today, giving a rare glimpse of the original features. To find out more about the event follow the CCDT on Twitter or Facebook where details will be provided closer to the event.