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Graylingwell Chapel Wins Sussex Heritage Trust Award for Community Work

This week Chichester Community Development Trust (CCDT) proudly accepted the Public and Community Award at the Sussex Heritage Trust annual event. It marked the incredible work of CCDT and all their construction, design, technical and development team that helped to transform The Chapel from a disused building, void of power and light, to a vibrant, warm space welcoming the whole community to activities, events, a café and children’s interactive play area.

Initially designed as a Chapel to provide spiritual sanctuary to staff and patients of the West Sussex County Asylum (later renamed Graylingwell Hospital) the building was never consecrated.  The restoration project sought to retain the very special sense of comfort and calm that the building provided up until the hospital’s closure, whilst creating a secular environment that made all feel welcome.  The judges’ comments illustrated the high quality of the renovation works, and the achievements of the whole team:

“We struggled to find anything to criticise about this project, which is a model example of the conversion of a redundant religious building for community purposes. Such opportunities are likely to arise more frequently as adherence to organised religion further declines and Graylingwell Chapel, the potential new heart of the new community developing on the site of the former county psychiatric hospital, provides an excellent template. We were particularly impressed by the subdivision and flexible use of space, the sense of light and warmth, enhanced by the new flooring, and the new café extension.”

The Chapel was transferred to CCDT in 2017, with initial funds of circa £490k to achieve shell and core development. The CCDT team raised a total of £1.9m in funding to transform the space into the thriving, community venue it has now become.

The project conserved and enhanced the unique listed building by restoring the fabric of the structure while reconfiguring the space to be flexible. At the heart of the project was the vision to complement the chapel’s distinctive layout and original purpose as an asylum church with new structures that enhanced the architecture. The project tells the fascinating story of one hundred years of mental health care as experienced at Graylingwell Hospital through a varied activity programme and interactive exhibition. To highlight the significance of Graylingwell’s history the team placed an emphasis on mental health in the interpretation and programming.

Commented Clare de Bathe, CEO of CCDT, “This award has made us feel incredibly proud of the enormous piece of work in converting the Chapel. It rightly recognises the huge contributions of the many organisations and individuals that came together to make it possible. The award specifically commends those that helped with the infrastructure but there were many more beyond – our incredible team of volunteers, the wisdom and endless knowledge of the West Sussex Records Office, the kindness of The Novium to host an exhibition of the mental health heritage and supply so much content to our exhibition and many more. It is the result of an army of support and we are so pleased that the community has taken the Chapel straight to their heart, using the space to help them feel better in so many ways.”

Partners included on the award, in addition to CCDT, were SMD Construction Consultancy Ltd, NJS, Cuttings South Ltd, County Gutters Ltd; ARC Electrical Contractors; AD Broughton Ltd; Martin Thomas Associates; Ark Stained Glass & Leaded Lights; County Stone Granite; Wire Wizards; M J Martin Builders; Drew Smith; Whaleback Design & Planning Consultancy and Vistry.

To find out more about the activities, events, room hire and café options available at the Chapel now simply visit the website