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Dissenters' Cemetery Chapel, Superintendent's Cottage, Gatepiers and Railings

A Grade II Listed Building in Frome, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2351 / 51°14'6"N

Longitude: -2.3336 / 2°20'0"W

OS Eastings: 376807

OS Northings: 148483

OS Grid: ST768484

Mapcode National: GBR 0S8.JTW

Mapcode Global: VH97D.H7P1

Entry Name: Dissenters' Cemetery Chapel, Superintendent's Cottage, Gatepiers and Railings

Listing Date: 4 May 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1409512

Location: Frome, Mendip, Somerset, BA11

County: Somerset

District: Mendip

Civil Parish: Frome

Built-Up Area: Frome

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

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A Nonconformist cemetery chapel, superintendent's cottage, gatepiers and railings, dating from 1851, designed by Joseph Chapman of Frome.


MATERIALS: the CHAPEL and COTTAGE are constructed from local stone rubble brought to course, with stone dressings. The CHAPEL is roofed in red clay tile, and the COTTAGE in slate. A small extension to the lodge is in red brick. The GATEPIERS are of stone, with iron railings and gates.

PLAN: the cemetery has a relatively narrow frontage to Vallis Road, and extends back from the road in a north-easterly direction, occupying a roughly rectangular plot which is c 0.54 ha in area. The COTTAGE is set at the south-western end of the plot, fronting directly onto the road, with boundary RAILINGS and GATES set on an arc running across the remainder of the frontage of the cemetery. The CHAPEL is set back c 20m behind the entrance gates and is entered from the south-west. Beyond this, a path which forks into two runs north-eastwards, with lateral paths towards the centre and rear of the cemetery.

EXTERIOR: the cemetery is focused on its CHAPEL, which stands in line with the gateway. The building is in an Italian Romanesque style. The building is of two bays, set on a moulded plinth, with the bay structure articulated by pilasters, those at the ends of the elevations with short offsets and thus finishing just below eaves level. Moulded cill and shoulder bands run along the long elevations. The roof has high, coped verges. A Lombard frieze runs under the eaves of the gables and both long elevations. The entrance is in the main elevation, the south-west gable end. The round-arched double doors with foliate strap hinges are set deeply within a gabled recess which has a moulded semi-circular arch with a drip-mould and zig-zag moulding springing from a single detached shaft of contrasting red stone to either side, with cushion capitals. The attached gable above the opening has moulded kneelers and dressed-stone pilasters to either side of the detached shafts. Set high towards the apex of the gable is a circular window with drip mould and tracery in the form of a five-pointed star. The long elevations each have two single-light round-headed windows set under slightly-recessed round arches springing from cushion capitals atop single detached shafts. The rear elevation has a single-light window of similar size but without further embellishment.

The COTTAGE, which is in a round-arched Italianate style fronts directly onto the road at the south-western edge of the cemetery. The building is of two storeys, and consisted originally of a short gabled range running back from the road, and another short range at right-angles. The original building has high coped verges to the roof with moulded stone kneelers, stone stack, and round-arched window openings housing timber casement windows, a moulded string course between ground and first floors and a slightly projecting plinth. The later addition, which runs north-eastwards from the rear, has matching coped verges, rectangular window openings in dressed-stone surrounds, and a stone stack. The main elevation has a slightly-projecting gable to the left, with the cross-range running for a single bay to the right. The gable has a slightly-projecting ground-floor window bay housing a two-light round-arched window flanked by pilasters matching those used on the chapel building. Above this is a two-light, round-arched window and in the attic, a circular breather. To the right, the bay has a round-arched entrance doorway with a single-light round-arched window above. The south-eastern elevation faces into the cemetery, and its gabled section houses another round-arched entrance doorway, slightly narrower than that to the main elevation, giving access to the lobby where registrations and other official business took place. The door is a round-arched, ledged and braced example with decorative cross braces. A narrow, single-light window with round head is set just to its right. Above are two larger single-light round-arched windows, with a circular breather in the attic. To the right of this gabled section, and flush with it, runs the additional bay added in 1915, with two-over-two sash windows to ground and first floors. The north-eastern gable end has similar windows, one each to ground and first floors, to the right of the stack. The north-western elevation of the added bay is blind, and runs directly into the original rear wall, flush with it. The first floor of the original range has a two-light round-headed window to the first floor, and to its right, the chimney breast is expressed externally by a slightly-projecting section of stonework; the stack has been removed. The ground floor is largely obscured by an L-shaped, single-storey, lean-to extension in red brick, added in c 1982, which is not of interest.

INTERIOR: the CHAPEL is an undivided single cell with a floor of flagstones set on the diagonal, and plastered and painted walls. The splayed window openings to the long elevations are unrelieved. The window to the north-east end recreates the external form of the windows in the long elevations, with detached shafts to either side of the window opening and a shallow-recessed round arch above. The only remaining furnishings are long stalls of timber seating running along the long sides of the chapel, with fielded fronts and moulded tops. The roof is formed from false hammer-beam trusses, with the curved braces forming a semi-circular arch between the truncated tie beam and the principal rafters. There are single purlins, and the lower, curved braces below the tie beams spring from moulded stone corbels.

The COTTAGE interior has been much damaged by fire and water damage. The interior layout of the ground floor has an entrance lobby accessible both from the road and the cemetery, formerly used by the superintendent for official business. Beyond this is a timber winder stair, a C20 replacement but apparently in the original position. The handrail is a later C20 replacement. The remainder of the ground floor of the original building is a single large room with a fireplace set flush within the wall in a segmental-arched opening; there is no grate or surround. This room also has a fitted cupboard with a plain two-panel door in the depth of the original rear wall. Adjacent to the fireplace is a door into the 1982 extension which has a kitchen, store and WC. A doorway to the rear of the main ground-floor room gives access to the 1915 extension, a single, large room with a C20 tile fireplace surround. The ground-floor rooms of the original house have moulded skirting boards and some door surrounds. The first floor of the original building has three rooms and a landing; three partitions have been partially or completely removed. One room retains a plain, late-C19/early-C20 timber fire surround, though the grate has been removed. No other features remain. The roof is largely inaccessible but the small area visible has a simple truss made from paired principal rafters, supported by an iron strut rising to the ridge from the tie beam.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the front of the plot is bounded by RAILINGS, set on an arc on a dressed stone plinth, with a central gateway. The GATEPIERS are constructed from dressed stone, and have moulded pyramidal caps, and raised fields to front and back, with moulded corners, and projecting shoulders to left and right, to which are affixed iron railings with gadrooned heads, and iron gates formed from similar uprights. The railings terminate in piers which are slightly smaller versions of the central gatepiers.


In common with much of this part of the West Country, Frome has a strong history of Nonconformity; its first Dissenters split from the established church and formed an alternative meeting in the 1660s at Rook Lane, where the great Congregational chapel (listed Grade I) would be built in 1707. By the time John Wesley came to preach Methodism in the town in 1753, there were several other established Nonconformist meetings in the town. In addition to the Rook Lane Congregationalists, the Society of Friends (Quakers) had been meeting since at least 1675 in Sheppards Barton, and Baptists since 1669, eventually supporting two chapels. They were later joined by Methodist and Primitive Methodist meetings, each with its own chapel. A new Zion Congregational Church was formed by a group of former Wesleyan Methodists in 1773; its chapel in Whittox Lane (listed Grade II) was constructed in 1810 and remodelled in 1888 by the local architect and stonemason, Joseph Chapman Junior (1818-1900). The Chapman family were prominent local stonemasons; Joseph Junior had worked with his father Joseph (1784-1853), also a stonemason, before working on his own account. They provided high-quality stone monuments and plaques for places of worship, and both Joseph and Joseph Junior evidently also worked as architects.

The Dissenters' cemetery, with its chapel, superintendent's cottage, gates and railings, was constructed in 1851 on land purchased for the purpose from the Marquess of Orrery, whose family were lords of the manor of Frome. A cemetery for the Free Churches of the town had been proposed in July 1850, and subscriptions were taken up; the plan was supported not only by the Nonconformist congregations, but by the Anglican parishioners. A Trust was set up to administer the cemetery, and its minute books from 1850 onwards survive. Such was the impetus for the construction of the cemetery, that the superintendent's cottage, chapel and the layout of the cemetery had been completed by September 1851, when the first burial took place. The Chapman family were prime movers in the creation of the cemetery and its structures, and Joseph Chapman (1784-1853) was responsible for the layout of the cemetery and the design of the buildings on the site. The Dissenters' Cemetery was used by all the Nonconformist congregations in Frome, and eventually became the resting place of over 6,000 townspeople. The cemetery was resurveyed in 1881 by Joseph Chapman Junior, and his plans of this date survive. The superintendent's cottage, which included a ground-floor room for official purposes, such as the formal registration of burials, proved too small for the needs of its early C20 occupants, and they petitioned for an extension, which was agreed upon in 1914, and completed in 1915; a new wing was added to the rear with a large room to each of the ground and first floors.

In the early years of the C21, the Trustees of the cemetery actively moved to secure the future of the site, including clearing the overgrowth of the cemetery and finding a new use for the former cemetery superintendent's cottage which has been empty since c 2005, following a series of arson attacks which have damaged the interior of the building. Following the discovery that a number of plots in the cemetery were never sold or never used, burials have been taking place again since 2010.

Reasons for Listing

* Architectural interest: the chapel, by Joseph Chapman, is an impressive Romanesque design, well-constructed and with good detailing; its modest size and restrained but accomplished style are well suited to its sombre purpose, and reflect the relative simplicity of the worshipping communities for which it was constructed;
* Design interest: the simplified Italianate style of the former superintendent's cottage, and of the gatepiers and their impressive railings, all designed by Joseph Chapman and contemporary with the chapel, complements the architecture of the chapel without competing with it;
* Group value: the ensemble of cemetery chapel, superintendent's cottage, and gatepiers and railings are a functionally- and stylistically-related contemporary assemblage which together form a significant group;
* Historic interest: the Dissenters' Cemetery has clear historic interest for its expression of the strength and depth of Nonconformity in Frome, an area which has a long history of friendly co-operation not only between the various Dissenting churches, but also with the Anglican and Roman Catholic congregations which supported its setting up.

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