Friday, July 10, 2009

Leicester Unitarian Chapel, East Bond Street

This is Leicester Unitarian Chapel - or "Great Meeting" - in East Bond Street, now hidden away behind the new Highcross shopping centre. As its website says, it is the oldest complete brick building in the city and one of its most important surviving buildings.

In the 19th century the city was known as "radical Leicester" and the city's first seven mayors following the overthrow of the corrupt old corporation in 1835 were Liberals and members of the congregation at East Bond Street.

When it was first built the chapel it was a brick cube and it still retains an early American feel. However, later in the Victorian era it was given a chancel and stained glass to make it more of a conventional church. As the picture above proves, the trees at the front make it difficult to photograph satisfactorily.

Next door to the chapel is a 19th century Unitarian school and a modern extension has been built over part of the old graveyard. You can have a coffee and browse secondhand books there on Saturday mornings.

More photogenic is the large wooden building at the rear of the chapel which, I have been told, used to be used for storage by a furrier. It looks agricultural and, sitting looking at it from the chapel's graveyard, it is easy to imagine you are in a churchyard in rural Essex.

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