History of the Project

The Octagon congregation are very proud custodians of the beautiful building in which they have the privilege to call their spiritual home. They take the care and maintenance of the building very seriously and wish to see generations of Unitarians and free thinkers continue the worship at the Chapel.

As part of the maintenance programme an inspection of the roof revealed that it had aged and needed some repair works to maintain its integrity. The congregation went about looking for funding to support further exploration of the roof and repair or replace any worn or damaged areas. This was a concern that water would ingress and damage the original plasterwork within the dome and cornices.

An application to the Heritage Lottery was considered which also required an element of community engagement where more people could enjoy the history and the architecture of the building.

The congregation immediately invited the Jane Austen College in Colegate to join and the project became a part of an elective within the curriculum.

The application was successful and true to a Unitarian form, was the first chapel funding outside the Church of England that the fund had supported in the East of England.

The Octagon Chapel roof

The Octagon is a Grade II* listed building and therefore required careful planning and management of any investigations and repairs. Several investigations were undertaken including nocturnal bat surveys. These determined the extent of the works required and whether there were any conditions that needed to be adhered to.

In May 2017 work commenced by building a scaffold construction which included a corrugated roof to protect the chapel from any inclement weather. The roof was then worked on in parts, revealing some additional work required to remove asbestos and replace the perimeter lead. The repair of the roof will be completed in August 2017.

Jane Austen College and Octagon Chapel Partnership

The students met every Tuesday between 4 and 5pm at the college. They initially visited the chapel and met different members of the congregation to give them an insight to the various aspects of the chapel.

The students also visited Bridewell Museum, Thomas Ivory’s house and were given a guided tour of Colegate. Members of the congregation also prepared many historical books from the chapel which gave insight into various aspects of its past.

The aim of the elective was to develop and create the contents of a website that would reflect what the students determined was areas of interest to share with people. A web designer was commissioned to work with the students to develop their ideas and create a website that would drive greater interest in the chapel and its history.

Our thanks

Firstly the congregation would like to thank the Heritage Lottery for ensuring that the chapel can remain as a focal point for several generations of the future and in giving the opportunity to work with local students in developing an informative and colourful website.

Thanks must also go to the Jane Austen College, the staff and the students for being accommodating and working with the congregation in developing this website. It has been an invaluable journey for all involved.

Finally, thanks to all the people who have given more to the project than what was asked for in making sure that the project aim came to fruition. The results speak for themselves.