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Press Release: Historic Mental Health Care Gives Voice to Unique New Work

£1.3m National Lottery grant awarded to Chichester’s fascinating Graylingwell Park Chapel conversion

Chichester Community Development Trust (CCDT) has been successful in its bid to receive a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £1.3 million to develop and return Graylingwell Chapel to life. A century old site that played a key role in pioneering mental health treatment and convalescing soldiers from both World Wars, its history has inspired the planned conversion of the Chapel to provide wellbeing for communities of the future. A further circa £221,000 will be co-funded by the Chichester District Council, using s106 Community Facilities contributions, added to the legacy amount provided by Linden Homes

The ‘Heritage at the Heart of Graylingwell’ project reflects on the unique history of the site. Built in 1890 and designed by Sir Arthur Bloomfield, the chapel supported the pioneering mental health hospital at Graylingwell where arts, craft, cookery, outdoor work and horticulture were used as holistic treatments. It is these methods that will be both remembered and used to create modern day mental health support at the new centre.  Seven ‘chapters’ will review different aspects of mental health care including the language that has historically and is currently used around this subject; and the way people have and do identify as suffering will be highlighted with interactive displays to further develop understanding in this field.

The chapel will intrigue many with its snapshots of life from a century ago, including the separate entrances for men and women. Original features such as stained glass windows honouring the work of the hospital’s founders and the soldiers cared for on site, and a ‘magic lantern’ (an early image projector) saved from a skip during past works is now fully restored to working order and will be utilised in the new building. 

Whilst the hospital was closed in 2001, the chapel will play an essential role in sustaining the area’s history and engaging future generations. The project will redevelop a site that served as a place of refuge and reflection for those being treated for mental health conditions throughout a hundred-year period, into an engaging venue for learning and social interaction.  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. Many stories are told in the authentic voices of those connected to the site.  Examples include stories from Clare Ockwell:

“There was another patient and I who actually started the Escape Committee.  It was purely fictitious but… basically, in the room where we had the community meetings, there was a blackboard and chalk, so we started writing all these spoof Escape Committee notices on them and then we’d start rigging the odd thing like having a shoe just emerging from up the chimney and that kind of thing…  It was very popular among the patients and the staff, they didn’t object violently.  It was a sort of sideways look.  Well, why not?”

And William Reavley on Dr Peter Sainsbury’s work on the Worthing Experiment:

“He was a great supporter of psychology. I remember he sent me a patient once who had writer’s cramp. And it was quite a serious form of writer’s cramp because he was a soldier, and when he became anxious his fingers would grip and he would spray bullets all over the place, so it wasn’t just handwriting.  And we used a sort of bio-feedback approach, where we used little microphones to measure muscle potential, and told him to relax and execute various movements, and gradually build up a repertoire.”

In addition to protecting and showcasing its heritage the site will be a pivotal location for the community in North East Chichester.  A place to meet and enjoy local events, but also to feel a sense of ownership over. The residents of the area have been closely involved in the development of the chapel’s plans, and the integration of their hopes and needs were central in the design for the future.

Director of CCDT, Clare de Bathe commented:

“This is the most important gift The National Lottery Heritage Fund could have provided to the people of this area.  We have spent the past two years consulting with the local community to understand their needs and desires to ensure that the facility will be thoroughly enjoyed by all.  Not only will it be a fascinating glimpse into our local history, it will continue to progress the conversation about mental health, as well as providing a hugely enjoyable venue for families, children and friends to come together, relax and enjoy themselves with the beautiful café and play area.  In addition we have retained a space for quiet reflection for those wanting a place to inspire and relax, in recognition of the chapel’s previous role.”

The main, central space will host events, exhibitions, musical performances and film screenings amongst other activities.  Fusing history with contemporary styles, the traditional architecture and stained glassed windows will be accompanied by modern art and furniture, with underfloor heating to ensure a welcoming environment. Supporting the positive development of the chapel’s youngest visitors, children will be able to enjoy a dedicated interactive play area, allowing parents to enjoy some rest and enjoy the site’s activities.

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. Customers can enjoy food sourced from local producers, events will include baking and community led activities.

Louise Rudziak, Director of Housing and Communities, Chichester District Council said

“When the redevelopment of Graylingwell was first outlined it was hoped that future residents would help shape what the use of this building would look like.  We are delighted that the community led design process has resulted in such an exciting blend of celebrating the history of Graylingwell and providing facilities for residents from across North East Chichester.”

CCDT plan to celebrate this fantastic news with the local community in the near future, giving a rare glimpse of the original features, and ensuring local residents feel engaged and part of this new development.  To find out more about the events as they are scheduled follow CCDT on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook where details will be provided closer to the event. 

Notes to editor

Chichester Community Development Trust (CCDT) trades for social purpose, and delivers social and environmental benefits to the local community:

• Owns, manage and maintain land and community buildings

• Develops and encourages, fosters and promotes the physical, economic and social development and regeneration of the area

• Protects/ conserves the environment

• Creates training and employment opportunities

• Advances education, training and retraining

• Promotes public safety and the prevention of crime

• Develops the capacity and skills of the members of the community


About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund 

Further information

For further information, quotes, images and interviews please contact Clare de Bathe at CCDT on 01243 537526 and

Additional sample quotes from Graylingwell’s past residents and staff:

It was difficult in the War, mainly because we were so close to the Westhampnett aerodrome and we had the big Bofors guns and the ack ack guns. There were about five round in the hospital fields, and there was one right behind us, behind the house, and of course when they fired every door in the house shook… And we didn’t have a proper shelter to get in.  They made us a dugout under the elm tree and we used to have to run across the yard.”  Cicely Glover and Shirley Wingham.

And David Kerridge:

“If you haven’t got a genuine, basic, good, loving nature – human heart – and you genuinely want to do something nice, caring towards someone, then I don’t think you should be a nurse; l but I think Graylingwell, working in a mental health environment, gave me that real basic foundation of actually, what you’ve got to do is look into someone’s eyes – empathy.”

Chichester District Council
Linden Homes