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Upper Brook Street Chapel, Manchester

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Upper Brook Street Chapel
Upper Brook Street Chapel 2017 006.jpg
The chapel in 2017
Basic information
Location Upper Brook Street, Manchester, England
Geographic coordinates 53°28′9.44″N 2°13′53.28″W / 53.4692889°N 2.2314667°W / 53.4692889; -2.2314667Coordinates: 53°28′9.44″N 2°13′53.28″W / 53.4692889°N 2.2314667°W / 53.4692889; -2.2314667
Affiliation Unitarian, then Baptist, then Jehovah's Witness, then Islamic
District Chorlton-on-Medlock
Architectural description
Architect(s) Sir Charles Barry
Architectural style Neogothic
Groundbreaking 1837
Completed 1839

The Upper Brook Street Chapel, also known as the Islamic Academy, the Unitarian Chapel and the Welsh Baptist Chapel, is a former chapel with an attached Sunday School on the east side of Upper Brook Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Greater Manchester, England. It is said to be the first neogothic Nonconformist chapel, having been constructed for the British Unitarians between 1837 and 1839, at the very beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria. It was designed by Sir Charles Barry, later architect of the Palace of Westminster.

A listed building since 3 October 1974 (currently Grade II*), it is owned by Manchester City Council and was on the Buildings at Risk Register, rated as "very bad". It was partially demolished in 2006. The Victorian Society placed the building on a list of ten most threatened buildings in England and Wales. It was restored and converted to student accommodation in 2017 by Buttress Architects.



The chapel was designed by Sir Charles Barry,[1] shortly before he designed the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament). It was constructed between 1837 and 1839 out of sandstone, with a slate roof. It is in English neogothic style. The building has seven narrow bays, with buttresses and a lancet in each bay. The west end has a giant moulded archway, with an arched doorway at the ground floor with a window above. On the east end there is a rose window. The corners are square, with pinnacles. The inside of the chapel had galleries on three sides, and a ribbed, vaulted ceiling. The attached two-storey Sunday School is in the same style as the chapel, and has a triple-gabled north side, with large arched windows on the first floor. It also has a canted apse on the west end, and a lean-to porch.

The building marked a charge in the style of Nonconformist worship locations. Previously these were mostly built with brick, and were plain, with the grander tending towards Greek architecture. Said to be the first neogothic Nonconformist chapel, Manchester's Unitarian Chapel was preceded by the Congregational Chapel in March, Cambridgeshire,[2] which was constructed in 1836 and is also in the neogothic style. Chapels built following the construction of these two resembled parish churches more than the former style.[3]

The building was listed on 3 October 1974, and is currently classed as Grade II*.[1]



The chapel was originally constructed for the Unitarians. It replaced the Mosley Street Chapel (built 1789,[4] demolished 1836[5]) upon its completion for baptisms, burials and marriages.[6] The chapel was used for burial rites[7] until 1882, the chapel had a graveyard from the outset, to both the north and south sides of the chapel. Restrictions were placed on this in 1856 and prohibited in 1882 except for the removal of remains from graves on the north side to brick vaults on the south side of the chapel.[citation needed] Baptisms were performed until at least 1912, and marriages until at least 1916.[7]

Ministers at the chapel include John James Tayler (until 1853),[4] William Henry Herford (1866–70),[8] Philip Wicksteed (circa 1890),[9] John Trevor (1890–91, left to start The Labour Church)[5][10] and Edward Walker Sealy (1910-???).[8]

Other denominations[edit]

The chapel was sold in 1928 due to changes in the district,[5] and was subsequently used as a Welsh Baptist Chapel.[1] The chapel was then used as a Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall in the early 1970s.[11] The building has been owned by Manchester City Council since the 1970s,[12] who purchased land alongside Upper Brook Street with the aim of constructing a large motorway into Manchester, which was never realised.[13]

Both the chapel and Sunday School were occupied by the Islamic Academy of Manchester between 1974 and 2006, when it was used as a mosque, teaching centre and for outreach work in the Asian community.[14]

Dereliction and rebirth[edit]

The chapel without its roof in 2008
The Chapel being redeveloped in 2017

By the beginning of the 21st century, the future of the building was looking increasingly uncertain.[15] The chapel had become unsafe, and substantial money was needed for emergency repairs.[14] An unsuccessful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding to repair the building was made by the Islamic Academy in 2003. In 2001 and 2005 the City Council commissioned structural advice regarding the building, prior to removing most of the roof, with the agreement of English Heritage.[12]

Parts of the chapel were demolished at the start of 2006 on safety grounds, with scaffolding holding up some other sections. By 2010 the chapel was on the Buildings at Risk Register, rated as "very bad".[16] The Victorian Society placed it on a list of ten most threatened buildings in England and Wales.[17]

In October 2010 Manchester City Council announced that it was in discussion with a developer to renovate the building and bring it back into use.[13] In August 2013 the council received a planning application from the Church Converts (Manchester) to repair the building and convert it into apartments; the application was granted in February 2014.[18] The redevelopment by CZero Developments consists of 73 private apartments in both the chapel and the Sunday school.[19]

From September 2017, the building has been operating as student accommodation, with a gym, cinema room, study areas and a lounge.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Historic England, "Islamic Academy (1270670)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 2015-04-12 
  2. ^ "March, Cambridgeshire - Extract from Kelly's Directory of Cambridgeshire 1929". Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  3. ^ Hilton, Boyd (2006). A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People?: England 1783–1846. Oxford University Press. p. 529. ISBN 0-19-822830-9. 
  4. ^ a b Wach, Howard M. (September 1991). "A "Still, Small Voice" from the Pulpit: Religion and the Creation of Social Morality in Manchester, 1820–1850". The Journal of Modern History. 63 (3): 425–456. doi:10.1086/244351. JSTOR 2938626. 
  5. ^ a b c Micklewright, F. H. Amphlett (1943). "A Sidelight on Manchester History". Notes and Queries. Oxford University Press. 184: 214–216. doi:10.1093/nq/184.8.216. 
  6. ^ "Church Register List - Manchester City Centre". Manchester City Council. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  7. ^ a b "Church Register List - Chorlton-on-Medlock to Claughton". Manchester City Council. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  8. ^ a b Ruston, Alan. "Obituaries of Unitarian Ministers - 1900 - 2004 - index and synopsis". Archived from the original on 22 May 2009. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  9. ^ "John Trevor". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  10. ^ Pierson, Stanley (December 1960). "John Trevor and the Labor Church Movement in England, 1891–1900". Church History. Church History, Vol. 29, No. 4. 29 (4): 463–478. doi:10.2307/3161930. JSTOR 3161930. 
  11. ^ "'Vandalism' - Muslim charge against council 'wreckers'". Manchester Evening News - Asian News. 18 January 2006. Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  12. ^ a b "Manchester City Council - Agendas, reports and minutes". 1 February 2006. Retrieved 2008-03-18.  (section on "CC/06/13 Unitarian Chapel, Upper Brook Street, Manchester")
  13. ^ a b "Student digs plan for 'at risk' chapel in Manchester". BBC News. 11 October 2010. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Hammond, Steve (3 August 2004). "Homeless". Manchester Evening News - Asian News. Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  15. ^ Taylor, Paul R (16 February 2006). "'Vulnerable' chapel faces demolition". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  16. ^ "Buildings at Risk: Former Welsh Baptist Chapel". English Heritage. Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
    Heritage at Risk: Welsh+Baptist+Chapel
  17. ^ "Ten 'most threatened' buildings in England and Wales". BBC News. 11 October 2010. 
  18. ^ "Upper Brook Street Chapel planning application". 
  19. ^ "Revival for crumbling chapel designed by Houses of Parliament architect". Place Northwest. 1 June 2016. 
  20. ^ "Hello Student: The Chapel". Retrieved 30 May 2017.