Friday, 14 February 2020

Chapel of the Resurrection

The chapel with Belfast Castle in the background

THE CHAPEL OF THE RESURRECTION, 21, Innisfayle Park, Belfast, was constructed in 1865-69 in the Gothic-Revival style as a mortuary chapel for the 3rd Marquess of Donegall, whose seat was Belfast Castle.

This charming little chapel predates Belfast Castle, which was constructed in 1868-70.

The late Sir Charles Brett remarked that the 3rd Marquess found his previous dwelling of Ormeau House an ‘ill-constructed residence’, and Lord Donegall himself wrote that his estate was "under a disadvantage for want of a more suitable family residence.’

Despite being in constant debt, Lord Donegall decided to construct a new mansion at lands he still owned in the deer park to the north of Belfast.

The Donegall family chapel, designed by Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon, was built as a mortuary chapel that served as a memorial to the 3rd Marquess's son Frederick Richard, Earl of Belfast, who had died prematurely in 1853.

The chapel was not only a memorial to their son, but was also to be used as a burial place for members of the Chichester family (who had heretofore been interred at Carrickfergus).

The Chapel of the Resurrection was consecrated on the 20th December, 1869, by the Rt Rev Dr Robert Knox, Lord Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore.

The Natural Stone Database records that the chapel was constructed with locally-quarried Scrabo sandstone, with Portland limestone used as a secondary material.

The interior of the chapel originally possessed a white marble monument to Lord Belfast which depicted him on his deathbed (sculpted by Patrick McDowell).

Following the completion of the site, the remains of Lord Belfast were moved to the Chapel of the Resurrection and interred in its vault.

It is said that the chapel was converted into a private chapel for the use of the owners and occupants of the Castle in 1891.

The conversion of the building included the decoration of the interior and the addition of an altar, reading-desk, organ and stained-glass windows.

The refurbishment of the interior was carried out by Cox & Sons, London, and Buckley's of Youghal, County Cork.

The church organ was built by Wordsworth of Leeds.

Following the death of the 3rd Marquess in 1883, Belfast Castle and its estate passed to his son-in-law, Anthony Ashley-Cooper (styled Lord Ashley), later 8th Earl of Shaftesbury, who had married the Lady Harriet Chichester in 1857.

The Shaftesbury family continued to own Belfast Castle until 1934, when the 9th Earl of Shaftesbury granted the building and the 200 acre estate to Belfast Corporation.

The Shaftesburys are thought to have continued using the chapel for private and semi-private services thereafter, even though they had no need of it, as they could worship in an Oratory located inside the Castle itself; but during the 1st World War services in the chapel were discontinued, except very occasionally.

Having been utilised as a private dwelling for only 65 years, Belfast Castle was granted to Belfast Corporation on 1st February 1935.

Lord Shaftesbury retained the chapel until 1938, when it was transferred to the Church of Ireland.

Brian Barton remarks that the chapel effectively became the responsibility of St Peter’s parish church from that year.

The first public service was held at the Chapel of the Resurrection on the 18th September, 1938.

The building suffered minor damage during the Belfast Blitz, and repairs were subsequently carried out to the damaged roof and windows.

The chapel continued to be used regularly for services between 1938 and the 1960s; due to the decline in church attendance, however, the change in the make-up of the local population and the vandalism of the building (following the development of post-war housing around it in the 1950s and 1960s), regular services were abandoned in 1965.

The last service was held on the 27th august, 1972.

The congregation of St Peter’s endeavoured to maintain the chapel, but by 1974 recurrent acts of vandalism had forced the Select Vestry to remove all furnishings from the building and to sell the organ to a rural church.

By the 1980s the church had fallen into an advanced state of disrepair and was curtailed behind a barbed-wire fence.

In 1982 the vaults beneath the chapel were vandalised and the remaining tombs (the remains of the Chichester family) desecrated by vandals.

Sadly the chapel has continued to lie vacant since the 1970s.

In 2007-08 holding repairs were carried out to the chapel, which included repairs to its roof, the restoration of its roof trusses and the cleaning of its stonework.

The restoration aimed to make the chapel safe and restrict further acts of vandalism; all openings and doors were blocked up.

Some of the original furnishings of the chapel survive at St Peter’s parish church, Antrim Road, Belfast.

In a side chapel of St Peter's (opened in 2000; named the Chapel of the Resurrection) are a number of artefacts from the derelict chapel, including its reredos, the altar, a number of statues, the credence table and the original lectern.

The chapel has a heavily-pitched, natural slate roof, with masonry cross finial to gabled façade and metal cross finial to apse.

Rock-faced masonry walls have cut-stone dressings, including string-courses and stepped buttresses.

Pointed arch window openings to nave have tracery, forming a bipartite arrangement.

There is a rose window at the gabled façade, and trefoil-arch openings to belfry.

A pointed arched door opening is set within a cusped and sprocketed, gabled surround.

The chapel's interior was of great beauty and charm.

Two effigies or statues of Lord Belfast, one of which was a life-size representation in pure white marble of him on his death-bed, his mother holding his right hand; the other, a plaster statue of the young nobleman.

Both are now in Belfast City Hall.

First published in February, 2014.  See the Mausolea & Monuments Trust.


Unknown said...

Did you know the stained glass windows were moved and are now held in Church of Ireland St. Comgalls Rathcoole

Timothy Belmont said...

I wasn't aware of that. Many thanks for the information. Tim.

cmn's blog said...

A cousin of mine who lives in Belfast says the structure is going to be made into luxury apartments? There's a snip of it in a home video my grandmother made in 1935 when she went to visit relatives in Belfast.
Carol Neilson