Chapel to be revealed after 125 years

24 March 2017

Oxford House

Restoration: Tower Hamlets Council will match public fund-raising

Restoration: Tower Hamlets Council will match public fund-raising

A “SECRET” Victorian chapel at Oxford House, a charitable arts centre in Bethnal Green, east Lon­don, could be restored and reopened to the public for the first time in 125 years — with a little help, and £25,000 cash, from the community.

Oxford House has launched a fund-raising campaign to carry out a “sensitive” restoration of its chapel, which was rediscovered last year after the roof collapsed. It is to be used for community events, activ­ities, and weddings, on completion. The amount raised by the public is to be matched by Tower Hamlets Council.

The charity was founded in 1884 for students and graduates from Keble College, Oxford, who under­took a period of residential volun­teering to learn about urban poverty. Oxford House was built in 1891 and 1892 by the architect Sir Arthur Blomfield, who designed the Royal College of Music in London, and rebuilt the nave of Southwark Cathedral.

Today, the building houses a theatre, a modern dance studio, gallery space, and meeting rooms. It is also home to 30 charities, com­munity groups, and businesses. Ox­­ford House was Grade II listed in 2011, and listed on the Heritage at Risk Register by Historic England in 2015, after being damaged by rain­water. The chapel, on the third floor, had been blocked off for more than a century.

The chief executive of Oxford House, John Ryan, said: “After a period of rain damage, we have put in a temporary roof protecting the chapel from the elements. But we need to find a permanent solution.” This would involve repairing and conserving a carved memorial to as­­sociates of Oxford House killed in the First World War, and new light­ing, audio-visual equipment, and power supply, he said.

The fund-raising campaign is being led by the actor Eddie Marsan, who praised the “central role” that the community centre has had for residents of east London, himself included. He said: “This campaign is a chance to take what could be a tragedy, and transform this stun­ning chapel into a new creative space for generations to come.”

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