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© Mr John H. Sparkes

IoE Number: 373868
Photographer: Mr John H. Sparkes
Date Photographed: 21 August 2007
Date listed: 24 March 1950
Date of last amendment: 24 March 1950
Grade II*

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BRIDGWATER ST2936NE DAMPIET STREET 736-1/11/52 (South side) 24/03/50 Christ Church Unitarian Chapel GV II* Unitarian Chapel. Dated 1688, rebuilt 1788. Flemish bond brick; stone coping, cornice to open bracketed and dentilled pediment, plaques, architraves and cill band; pantile roof. Rectangular plan with late C19 schoolroom to rear right. 2 storeys; symmetrical 3-window range. The windows have plain architraves with bead edges and late C19 leaded lights with narrow margin panes. The facade, set back approx 1m from the adjacent buildings and built up higher than the gable behind it, has a stone-flagged forecourt with traces of former railings. The central bay beneath the open pediment is stepped slightly forward; two date plaques in the typanum and a Venetian window to first floor above a handsome shell hood, (probably from the late C17 building), and C20 three-panel double doors. The bays flanking centre have a short returned cornice to each side of pediment from which high parapet walls sweep down to meet forward-projecting walls which flank forecourt; 2-light casement windows to first floor and fixed lights of same width to ground floor. INTERIOR: mostly of 1788 character, re-floored and reglazed late C19, recently restored. The doors, panelled on outside, have diagonal planking to back with full-width hinges and fine wrought-iron bolts to top and bottom. Floor of entrance hall and chapel of late C19 polychromatic tiles with elaborate pierced cast-iron continuous heating vent along the aisles. 4 full-height stone Tuscan columns with fluted capitals support the flat-ceilinged aisles and barrel-vaulted nave; aisles have dentilled moulding to the frames of tripartite skylight of 4 panes to centre and simple guttae cornice; nave has several pierced ceiling roses, some for ventilation, some had former pendant gas lights. Singers' gallery against front wall is supported by cast-iron Tuscan columns with fluted capitals and panelling to front; a late C19 organ stands on ground to centre, opposite the door. Complete range of late C19 box pews with reset C18 panelling; these have raised-and-fielded panels, raised H hinges; doors open flat, allowing passage down the aisles and elaborate Roman numbers to each pew in gold leaf; those in the aisles are higher and probably late C18. The small pulpit to rear centre is virtually an elaborate single box pew on stone plinth, raised on dais of 3 steps; pyramidal panelling to front, large scrolls to side of seat and a knob to the right by which the preacher could control the gas lighting of whole chapel. The late C19 schoolroom to rear right has a queen-post roof and tongued-and-grooved planked panelling below a high dado rail. C18 and C19 wall tablets include one to George Lewis Browne who brought Nelson's body back to England: it reads "Captain Browne obtained the trust and highest commendation of Admiral Lord Nelson under whose immediate command he distinguished himself at the Battle of Trafalgar." History: Outside to right of door is a painted panel claiming it to be the oldest non-conformist chapel in Bridgwater, to the base it reads "This congregation was founded by Admiral Blake's friends and associates when the Rev. John Norman, his former protege, was ejected from the parish church in 1662, after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660". The chapel was sacked by the authorities in 1663 and the contents burned on the Cornhill. A bronze plaque to the left of the door reads "The poet Samuel Coleridge Taylor preached in this church on Sunday 4th of June 1797 and Sunday 7th of January 1798". (Stell C: Non-conformist Chapels and Meeting-Houses in SW England: London: 1991-: 167-8; Buildings of England: Pevsner N: South and West Somerset: London: 1958-: 97; VCH: Somerset: London: 1992-: 235).

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