Knutsford’s 120-year-old cemetery chapel was officially reopened on Thursday 22nd July by Town Mayor Cllr Stewart Gardiner following an extensive refurbishment by Knutsford Town Council.
In stark contrast to the thick snow in which the chapel was first opened in December 1901, Cllr Gardiner cut the ribbon at a small ceremony in hot sunshine, inviting local clergy, funeral directors and special guests to enter the Grade II listed building to see the transformation.
The chapel was built as part of creating a new cemetery for Knutsford at the start of the 20th century and until 1974 was administered by the Knutsford Urban District Council. Following local government reorganisation in 1974 the chapel and cemetery were run by Macclesfield Borough Council, although the new Town Council retained ownership.
Cheshire East Council handed the building back to Knutsford Town Council in 2016 in a poor condition. A structural survey highlighted £52,000 of essential structural maintenance and the building was visibly tired with peeling paintwork, stained floors and cracking plaster. The Town Council secured the £52,000 needed to undertake the work to the Grade II listed building from Cheshire East Council but set its aspirations higher to undertake a full refurbishment and bring the chapel back into active use.
The total refurbishment programme included the installation of new water and electricity supplies, the creation of a kitchenette and accessible toilet in the anterooms and a thorough redecoration including repointing, stonework repairs, replastering, sanding and varnishing the parquet flooring and installing new heating. Various repairs were undertaken to structural beams, gutters and drainpipes and a new glass door was installed to the front. The majority of the old pews were removed to create a more flexible space with new lighting installed alongside fire and intruder alarms and a new septic tank. The total cost of the renovations, including professional fees, was £145,000 with the £93,000 balance being drawn from the proceeds of the sale of the Cemetery Lodge in 2018.
The chapel is available to hire for funerals and other suitable uses including remembrance services, community meetings and appropriate activities. The chapel will be routinely open for visitors to the cemetery for quietly reflection.
Cllr Jan Nicholson, who oversaw the project as part of the Cemetery working group said “After many years of neglect, I am absolutely delighted with the refurbishment of the Cemetery Chapel, a project instigated by my late husband Clive and I am looking forward to seeing the chapel used by the community of Knutsford.”
“Over several years our working group has toiled many hours to achieve and restore this wonderful chapel.”
During the works the council discovered the damaged remains of the original weathervane stored in the tower and is now exploring having this refurbished and reinstalled alongside the restoration and reinstallation of the chapel bell.
For information on hiring the chapel please see the Cemetery Chapel page