Mary Watts Chapel, Compton

30Jun12

English: Interior of Watts Cemetery Chapel Stu...

English: Interior of Watts Cemetery Chapel Stunning decorations line the circular walls inside this famous Victorian chapel. The tendrils around the figures represent the “Tree of Life”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Watts Gallery - Interior Famous colle...

English: Watts Gallery – Interior Famous collection of Victorian paintings, many by GF Watts himself. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The altar in Watts Mortuary Chapel lo...

English: The altar in Watts Mortuary Chapel located in the village of Compton in Surrey. Suzanne Knights, my photo, Oct 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The ceiling of Watts Mortuary Chapel ...

English: The ceiling of Watts Mortuary Chapel located in the village of Compton in Surrey. Suzanne Knights, my photo, Oct 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Source: http://www.wyrdlight.com Auth...

English: Source: http://www.wyrdlight.com Author: Antony McCallum Watts Cemetery Chapel Compton Surrey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Source: http://www.wyrdlight.com Auth...

English: Source: http://www.wyrdlight.com Author: Antony McCallum Watts Cemetery Chapel Compton Surrey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The door in Watts Mortuary Chapel loc...

English: The door in Watts Mortuary Chapel located in the village of Compton in Surrey. Suzanne Knights, my photo, Oct 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Home – Watts Chapel.

‘It is no exaggeration to say that the Watts Cemetery Chapel is one of the most beautiful, one of the most extraordinary, original, marvellous and magical buildings in the whole of the British Isles!’- Lucinda Lambton

Designed and built by Mary Watts, the Chapel is a unique fusion of art nouveau, Celtic, Romanesque and Egyptian influence with Mary’s own original style. It is impossible not to admire the work and inspiration that lies behind this beautiful little building.

As followers of the Home Arts and Industries Association, set up by Earl Brownlow in 1885 to encourage handicrafts among the lower classes, the Chapel was the Watts’s contribution to this characteristically Victorian preoccupation with social improvement through creative enlightenment. Mary passionately believed that anyone with a real interest and enthusiasm could be taught how to produce beautiful decoration, if in the process it kept them away from the ‘gin palaces’ of Guildford, this was surely a good thing. With this belief firmly in mind she encouraged all from the village, whatever their social status, to come their house Limnerslease for instruction in clay modelling.

The clay came from a seam that was discovered in the grounds of their house, apparently not unusual for this area. Taking this as a sign, Mary embarked upon the project with her usual determination, writing to the Parish Council in 1895 offering to build a new cemetery chapel, as the old graveyard in the village church of St Nicholas was full to capacity. Her offer was accepted. As early as 1888 concerned parishioners had discussed the problem of space and plans were therefore already underway for land to be purchased from the Loseley Estate.

Mary had produced her clay model of the new chapel by August 1895 and later that year the sale of land from William More-Molyneux was agreed.

The first clay modelling class took place at Limnerslease on Thursday 14 November 1895. All were welcome, from the local lady of the manor to her farm boys, as long as there was a genuine desire to learn, Mary was happy. After a few weeks learning how to handle clay and modeling simple decorations, they would begin to make clay tiles from the plates Mrs Watts had prepared.

The design itself is an amalgamation of inspiration, every aspect having symbolic meaning. The Circle of Eternity with its intersecting Cross of Faith is from pre-historic times and symbolises the power of redeeming love stretching to the four quarters of the earth. The dome is traditionally seen as emblematic of heaven, the four panels on the exterior containing friezes symbolising the Spirit of Hope, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Love and the Spirit of Light.

The exterior of the Chapel was finished in 1898, but the decoration of the interior took a while longer. Mary took the most talented of her craftsmen and women and together they created the stunning gesso interior, finally completing it in 1904.

The Chapel is Parish property and is open to the public daily. It is locked up at night.
Please remember that it is still the village cemetery chapel and is sometimes in use.

The above text and image comes from the Watts Gallery website.

I was a student in Farnham in the 1980s and I couldn’t believe it when we found this incredible place. It was the first time I had seen a pumpkin patch and the bronze and copper of the leaves was reflected on the incredible decoration inside the chapel. Beautiful gilded angels in relief on the walls from floor to ceiling. Incredible. I haven’t been back since, but following the refurbishment and Art Fund Art Prize longlist it must surely be worth a visit

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