West Waddy achieved listed building consent for the conversion of the Nonconformist chapel at the eastern end of the cemetery grounds for use as a Columbarium (a room or building with niches for funeral urns to be stored) following a scoping exercise which considered other conversion options including residential and office uses. The name Columbarium comes from the Latin word ‘Columba’ which means ‘dove’ – a reference to the resemblance of dovecote structures. Common in Europe and the Americas, there are fewer examples in the UK though they are quickly becoming a popular alternative to burial.
Following the feasibility exercise, WWA was commissioned by Henley-on Thames Town Council to prepared a schedule of repairs, and suite of details for the fit out which minimise harm to the fabric of the listed building and ensure works are reversible in the future.
The chapel, which dates from 1868, is one of a pair at the cemetery, Anglican and non-denominational, as was often the tradition at cemeteries across Victorian England. The chapel had fallen into a state of disrepair in recent years and the project involved restoration and conversion to form a columbarium providing a dignified resting place for the ashes of those cremated within the parish, or with links to the town.
The project has involved extensive restoration works including almost complete replacement of the roof, structural repairs and re-rendering of the interior with lime render. The chapel has then been fitted out with purpose designed cabinets that provide dedicated niches of various sizes for over 250 urns to be laid to rest. The works were designed and coordinated by Ralph Saull and Stephen Simkins at WWA, working with contractors Universal Stone Ltd.
This restoration and conversion has created a beautiful and contemplative space to visit and remember loved ones. The dark tones of the hardwood cabinetry and the elegance of the Victorian structure combine to create a reflective and peaceful atmosphere. New integrated lighting brings life and illumination to this otherwise dark interior and the warm blonde tones of the niche interiors frame the interred urns.
To find out more about the history of the Chapels and the Cemetery visit the Assendon Museum website here.
To find out about similar heritage projects that WWA have designed check out the heritage section of our portfolio here.