JAPANESE couples can get married in a replica of All Saints’, Brockhampton, in Herefordshire, created on two upper floors of a skyscraper in Osaka (above), complete with photographic studio, restaurants, and a hotel with honeymoon suites.
The marriages are civil weddings, not religious ceremonies, and couples pay £8000 to hire the chapel.
Previously, couples had to travel to Europe for the English-style weddings that are fashionable in Japan. The niche in the market was spotted by a Japanese company, European Connections Ltd, which discovered the church while on a visit to the UK to explore potential (Real Life, 28 March 2008).
All Saints’, Brockhampton, is off the beaten track, in an area of outstanding natural beauty. It was the last significant work undertaken by an architect of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Lethaby, in 1902. The church’s Rector, the Revd Will Pridie, said that its chocolate-box appearance had delighted the Japanese.
“It was a chance visit. They were driving around, looking, and said this English country church was exactly the size and speciality they wanted. They got through to us on the church website, and asked whether they could meet us and reproduce the church as a marriage chapel. I was totally dumbstruck. It was so culturally different.”
The diocese of Hereford assured Mr Pridie that there was no copyright on church buildings, unless it was a new church and the architect was still alive.
The project’s leader, Sue Anamizu, had been educated in Britain and understood its culture well. Mr Pridie said that Ms Anamizu “was very interested in our altar cloth, symbols, and where she could get stained-glass windows. She was appreciative of the building, and wanted to reproduce it in all honesty in Osaka.”
A team from Japan arrived with special cameras, laser measuring- devices, and colour swatches to match up the walls. Lights and seating were reproduced, and, while the chancel step has not been included, the team has faithfully reproduced the A-shaped arches designed by Lethaby.
“When you look at it, they’ve even got the ribbing of the thatch that the Norfolk thatcher has done on our building. They’ve opened up the west wall [for access] and slightly opened out the entrance, but, apart from that, it’s a superb three-quarter-sized replica. It’s totally bizarre, crazy, but it works,” Mr Pridie said.
The first wedding in Osaka took place on the same July day as there was a wedding at Brockhampton, at which the couple in Japan were remembered. The congregation at Brockhampton make a point of keeping the church open for visitors, and hope that couples who have been married in the Osaka replica might visit the real thing.
Mr Pridie said that his congregation “find it all quite extraordinary, but they’re chuffed that someone appreciated their parish church and wanted to reproduce it.”