Sunday, 26 February 2012

Non-Conformist Chapel, Marlpool Cemetery

I am neither a great photographer or a great authority on architecture, but I can tell you that this is a photograph taken by myself of the empty Non-Conformist Chapel at Marlpool Cemetery. Looking at it, I would think I was standing by the Donovan Monument (see previous posting) when I took it.

The building dates from 1859 when the cemetery was established on what had previously been an area of private land known as The Hallows. In addition to deciding to buy the land from it`s owner, a Mr Howitt (possibly a relative of local writers/social reformers William and Mary Howitt ?)  , the authorities made provision for two chapels of rest to be built, one Church of England, the other Non-Conformist. Only the latter now remains.

Non-Conformists trace their roots to the Dissenters, Christians of various denominations (Puritans, Presbytarians and others) who were non-Church of England and who agitated for reform of the established Church in the period leading up to the English Civil War. They prospered briefly under Cromwell`s rule, as he very literally put their slogan "no bishop, no king" into practise.

After the restoration of the monarchy, they found their rights limited as state and church (Church of England) were once again united. As the Act of Uniformity (1662) required all clergy to be ordained Anglicans, many withdrew from the state church altogether.

Strictly speaking, the Act of Uniformity defined a Non-Conformist as a believer in  a non-Christian religion or a Christian who was not Church of England. In this case, the chapel was almost certainly intended for the latter group. It may well be that Non-Conformism had deep roots in the area, as there is still a functioning `Free Church` locally today. As I understand it, nearby Nottingham was something of a magnet for Dissenters in period leading to the English Civil War.

This posting is undoubtedly a simplification of a rather more complex history and based on fairly hasty research by myself. I am a humanist myself, so you`ll appreciate that my grasp of the theological issues is rather hazy ! I`d hope it is broadly accurate nevertheless. If anyone wants to clarify any points or correct any errors on my part, I`d be only too glad if you`d add a few comments.

I don`t know when the chapel fell into dis-use. I do know that from 1991 - 2005 it housed Heanor Heritage Centre, a project run by Heanor and District Local History Society. Subsequently it has not been used at all, as far as I know.

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