11:36 am July 26, 2022
Plans have been submitted to carry out urgent repairs to a historic church in Norfolk.
Becket’s Chapel, Wymondham, is in need of restoration work due to years of neglect, poor maintenance and improper additions responsible for the state of the building.
Plans submitted to South Norfolk Council show that the walls and roof need refurbishing, the floors need replacing and the plaster and stone masonry needs repair.
A mid-20th century entrance hall will also be removed and the heating, electrical and lighting systems will be replaced.
Much of the Grade I listed structure dates from around the 1400s.
According to the Norfolk Heritage Explorer, the building was converted into a school in 1559 before being used to lock up unconvicted prisoners.
More recently it has been a library and currently houses the Wymondham Arts Centre.
A planning statement said: “The heritage significance of Becket’s Chapel is exceptional because of its probative, historical, aesthetic and community value.
“However, lack of maintenance and unsympathetic alterations over the years have affected its heritage significance.
“Becket’s chapel is in poor condition, and repairing the walls and roofs is a priority to stop the decay.”
The building is also not energy efficient and running costs are high, making it very difficult to use during the winter months.
Due to the poor condition of the building, the chapel has been on the endangered heritage register since 2018.
The Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust has taken an interest in maintaining this heritage site to bring it back into full use.
Much of the site is in disrepair, with overgrown vegetation and debris piled up against the walls, poor roof tiles and areas suffering from dampness.
Funding for the project will come from Historic England and the Architectural Heritage Fund.
One of Historic England’s requirements was to improve the environmental impact of the building.
According to Richard Halsey, building historian and trustee of the Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust, the chapel was founded in the late 12th century, although most of the surviving structures date from around the 1400s.
The precise date of construction of the original chapel and its purpose are unclear, but it is believed to be 1174, a year after the canonization of the martyr Thomas Becket.
The chapel was owned by nearby Wymondham Abbey until King Henry VIII dissolved monasteries across the UK, resulting in its closure in 1538.
After dissolution, the town bought the chapel around 1540.
During the reign of Edward VI, it was transformed into a secondary school.
In the 1800s, the ground floor was used as a shed for the parish fire engine and the parish dungeon. The high school used the upper floor.
After extensive restoration work, the chapel was reopened in 1873 as a public hall, then used again as a school until 1903.
In 1948 it became a branch library of the county, with major works carried out, including a new entrance to the lobby. The library closed in 2008.