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Old chapel to be transformed to new community hub in city

An inspirational project designed to bring members of Chichester’s community together in their shared history and communal future has moved an important step closer to completion.


Chichester District Council has granted Chichester Community Development Trust planning permission to convert the beautiful Graylingwell Chapel, previously part of Graylingwell Hospital, into a multi-purpose community and heritage centre and stylish cafe. It is hoped work will begin in April.


Focussing on the health and wellbeing of today’s local community, the Heritage at the Heart of Graylingwell project reflects on the unique history of the site, while also engaging newcomers with events, talks and a space for people to meet family and friends in a modern café environment.


Built in 1890, the historic building, designed by Sir Arthur Bloomfield, will intrigue many with its snapshots of life from a century ago, including the separate entrances for men and women.


Trust director Clare de Bathe commented: “The chapel represents an opportunity to combine the fascinating stories of Graylingwell’s past with modern activities that will entertain, support and nurture the lives of today’s local community, who are in great need of affordable and accessible venues. We’re incredibly excited that our dream of transforming this heritage site into a warm, welcoming environment can now come to life.”


While the hospital, which was pivotal in caring for the mental and physical health of those injured in both world wars, was closed in 2001, its chapel will play an essential role in sustaining the area’s history, and engaging future generations.


That history will be brought to life in an activity centre within the chapel, where visitors will be able to read and listen to the fascinating stories of families who were cared for, and staff who worked at the site known originally as the West Sussex County Lunatic Asylum.


The main central space will host events, exhibitions, musical performances and cinema listings among other activities. Fusing history with contemporary styles, the traditional architecture and stained glass windows will be accompanied by modern art and furniture, with underfloor heating to ensure a welcoming environment.


The café, to be built as a modern extension to the western side of the building, will not only provide a welcome resting place for those enjoying the heritage site, but also become a venue for local events and entertaining.


Providing customers with food sourced from local producers, events will include baking and community-led activities.


Work will be funded by grants provided by several sources, with the hope of including Heritage Lottery funds applied for earlier this year.


In addition, capital appeals will begin this month.

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