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£400k grant boost for historic Norfolk chapel 

Historic England has awarded a grant of £400,000 towards the repair of Grade I listed Becket’s Chapel in Wymondham.

The chapel, dedicated to St Thomas à Becket, is thought to have been founded in the late 12th century by the son of William d’Aubigny, founder of Wymondham Abbey. The current building dates to 1300 to 1350, when the chapel was rebuilt. It is a rare survival of an independent medieval chapel.

In 1559, the chapel was converted to a school. For some time in the 17th century, a lock-up for unconvicted prisoners was attached to the building and remained in place until at least 1848. In 1873, the building was restored and used as a public hall, before becoming a school once more. More recently it was used as the Wymondham branch library and then the town’s arts centre.


Becket’s Chapel was added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register in 2018. Urgent repairs are needed to the roof, gutters, drainage and masonry. The restoration of the structure and fabric of the building is essential to ensure its survival.


Trudi Hughes, Heritage at Risk Surveyor at Historic England, said: “I’m delighted that, working with Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust and funding partners, we’ve found a way to save and repair this remarkable medieval chapel using traditional repairs and techniques combined with measures to reduce dampness and improve its carbon footprint.

“This striking building has such a story to tell, having had a fascinating and varied history. It’s wonderful that this gem of a building will once again be at the heart of its local community and attracting visitors to this historic market town hopefully for many years to come.”


The building will be purchased by Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust (NHBT). Entirely self-financing and largely run by volunteers, the trust conserves and promotes Norfolk’s built heritage. It plans to repair and improve the chapel to become a local community hub, run by Wymondham Arts Forum, and to promote Wymondham as a heritage destination for visitors.


Historic England previously contributed grant funding of £51,000 for project development work on the chapel, partnering development grants of £45,000 from the Architectural Heritage Fund.


Funding for the project has also been pledged by the Architectural Heritage Fund, Norwich Freemans Charity, The Pilgrim Trust, The Headley Trust and Geoffrey Watling Charity.


Judith Harwood, Chair of Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust, said: “We are delighted to have secured the funding for the first phase of this exciting project to repair and upgrade Becket’s Chapel. This extraordinary chapel, right in the heart of the historic centre of Wymondham, is of significant architectural and historical importance. We are relieved that its future can now be assured for the benefit of the local community through the generous support of our funders.

“This is a ground-breaking project which supports the drive to net zero by incorporating insulation, locally sourced materials where possible and, we hope, in the second phase, powered by renewable energy.”

Read more at Historic England.

Pictured above is the exterior of Becket’s Chapel, Wymondham, Norfolk © Historic England.


Keith Morris, 01/04/2023

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