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A local history and genealogy site for Wimpole, a village and parish in South Cambridgeshire
Curated by Steve Odell

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The Wimpole Chapel
(Chapel of Our Lady and St Benedict)
A small private Chapel situated within the Village of Wimpole.
This is a local history and genealogy page for the Parish of Wimpole.

Wimpole Chapel following the 2009 restoration
Wimpole Chapel
Chapel of Our Lady and St Benedict
The interior of Wimpole Chapel following the 2009 Restoration.

[Wimpole Past:] Please be aware that the Wimpole Chapel is private property and that there is no public access from Cambridge Road. If you would like to visit the Chapel, please contact the owners well in advance via this website [use our Contact Page] and your message will be forwarded in confidence. All access is at the discretion of the owners. Public services at the Chapel are advertised in the Parish Magazine.

History and Former Use
The plot for this small building, known in the village as the Wimpole Chapel, originally lay within the Wimpole estate. The Chapel is situated to the rear of the present Village Hall and for much of its existence had its entrance from the edge of the present car park.
The present village of Wimpole (called ‘New Wimpole’ prior to April 1999) was begun in 1836, when cottages were built along Cambridge Road for some of Lord Hardwickes' estate workers. A large house for the village schoolmaster (the style of which suggests a date of c1850) and the nearby 'Wooden School' followed, before the 'Brick School' was erected by Lord Hardwicke in 1876.
The exact date of the building of the Chapel is not known, but an examination of plans and photographs from the early 20th century suggest that it might have been between 1905 and 1910.
Wimpole's own Parish Church adjoins Wimpole Hall, so the construction of the Chapel in the village meant that the inhabitants of New Wimpole need no longer walk nearly two miles to church.
By the 1890s the financial position of the Hardwicke family had become so bad that in 1894 Lord Robartes (later 6th Viscount Clifden) took over the Hall and estate in settlement of the 5th Earl's debts in his role of Chairman of the Agar-Robartes Bank. He made Wimpole over to his son Gerald in 1906. The Chapel, together with a much-reduced Wimpole estate, was conveyed in 1939 by Francis Gerald Viscount Clifden to Louis George St Clare Bambridge and his wife Elsie Bambridge (Rudyard Kipling's daughter). In 1974, Mrs Bambridge gave the Chapel to the Parochial Church Council of the Parish of St Andrew, Wimpole and the Ely Diocesan Board of Finance. It remained in the possession of the church until 2009.
Access to the Wimpole Chapel was from its South side. When the Chapel was built, the 'Brick School' was situated in the area now occupied by the Village Hall car park, and the approach to the Chapel would have been through the grounds of the school. The school belonged to the Ely diocese, and the Chapel was so close to it that it might have been used by the school, but this is uncertain. The main school building was demolished in 1946 and replaced some thirty years later by the present Village Hall, with the Chapel door then opening into the new car park.
There are older people in the village who can remember regular services being held in the Chapel in the 1940s and 1950s, and occasional services were held there until the 1980s. It is understood that it may also have been used for non-religious purposes during this period. Use seems to have ceased completely by the time the Rev’d. Neil Brice arrived as Rector in the early 1990s. This was understandable, as by that time Wimpole had become part of a benefice of five parishes with only one full time incumbent. Nevertheless, some in the village were attached to the Chapel and regretted its falling into disuse. The building then began to be used for storage by the Village Hall and its regular users such as the Mother Goose Pre-School. The altar and lectern were removed to Wimpole Parish church.
There is no evidence that the Chapel was ever consecrated or de-consecrated. As both of these must be carried out by a bishop, it seems unlikely.

Wimpole Chapel exterior before the 2009 restoration Wimpole Chapel exterior following the 2009 restoration
Wimpole Chapel (North Elevation)
Before the 2009 Restoration
Wimpole Chapel (North Elevation)
Following the 2009 Restoration

The Building, 2009 Restoration and Current Use
Soon after the present occupants moved into the Old School House in 2006, an approach was made to them by the Wimpole PCC concerning the Chapel. The land on which the Chapel is built borders on to The Old School House property on one side and the village hall car park on the other, so it was effectively landlocked and not saleable as a separate entity. The Church was finding the Chapel to be a liability to maintain and insure and the fabric was deteriorating apace. In 2008 the Chapel was broken into and its door badly damaged.
In January 2009 the freehold of the Chapel was finally made over to the occupants of the Old School House. The building was in a poor state, and needed complete renovation inside and out. Following the clearance of the large residue of rubbish remaining, the original altar rails were found to be still in place, though very dusty, cobwebby and mildewed. There were three altar frontals, sadly in a terminal state of decay, and the altar rail kneelers.
Interior of Wimpole Chapel prior to the 2009 Restoration.
The interior of Wimpole Chapel prior to the 2009 Restoration.
Compare this view with the title photograph above.
Architecturally, the building is simple in plan. It is rectangular, with a large window on its east side, and a high ceiling. It is built of wood on three sides. The brick wall which forms the fourth side (its south wall) is part of the boundary wall between the Old School House property and the Village Hall car park. The original door was made in this wall, but was bricked up following the transfer of ownership. A new door opens into the Old School House garden. The original roof had been replaced by a corrugated metal roof in the 1970s. The original timber structure was mostly very sound and built to a high standard, probably by the Wimpole estate carpenters. There is a fireplace in the west wall, and a chimney, now blocked. The repairs and re-wiring were all carried out by local craftsmen. Apart from the altar rails already mentioned, there are no distinctively ecclesiastical features in the structure of the building.
The entire inside and the outside of the Chapel were re-decorated during the summer of 2009, and by November necessary furnishings had been installed. This was in time for the Rev’d Neil Brice to conduct his last service in Wimpole - a Eucharist in the Chapel, which was attended by members of the congregation of Wimpole Parish Church. He left the benefice two days later.
The Chapel was re-dedicated for use as the Chapel of Our Lady and St Benedict in August 2010 and since then there has been a number of services. There is space for a congregation of about 18 people. The current Rector, the Rev’d Felicity Couch, is very supportive of the Chapel and holds at least one public Eucharist there each year. There are also public services of Compline held regularly during Lent and Advent. All are very welcome to attend. These services are advertised in the Parish Magazine and in the parish churches. A register of services has been kept since the restoration of the Chapel.
The present occupants of the Old School House have restored the Chapel building to serve the purpose for which it was built, and are custodians of this part of the heritage of the village for as long as they live there. However, as the building is purely private property, eventually it will pass to other owners who will be under no obligation to keep it as a Chapel.

1903 (2nd Edition) Ordnance Survey Map
1903 (2nd Edition) Ordnance Survey Map, showing the location of the Village School (1876-1946) and the Wimpole Chapel. The Chapel building is just to the left of the "S" in "School"

Please contact Steve via the Wimpole Past website if you have any old photographs or memories of the Wimpole Chapel in use that you would be willing to share on this page.

This page was last updated on: 9 January 2020.

St Andrew's Parish Church, Wimpole

St Andrew's Parish Church, Wimpole
A living church for the Parish of Wimpole, located within the National Trust's Wimpole
Hall Estate. The Church is managed and maintained by the Parochial Church Council.

Aerial View of St Andrew's Parish Church 2016
Aerial View of St Andrew's Parish Church 2016.
With permission © John Fielding 2016, all rights reserved.

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