St Nicholas' Chapel, King's Lynn, reopens following major regeneration project

England’s largest chapel of ease, St Nicholas’ Chapel in King’s Lynn, reopens to the public this Saturday, 12 September 2015, revealing its host of wooden roof angels to the public once again whilst celebrating the town’s rich history.

The reopening marks the latest chapter in the building’s 715 year history and follows a year-long £2.7m year restoration project, led by The CCT and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and local fundraising by the Friends of St Nicholas’ Chapel. The CCT hopes the restored chapel will encourage the public to engage with King’s Lynn’s unique history, which is explored in memorials in the chapel and new interpretation schemes added as part of the works.

Founded around 1140, the chapel was re-built in the 14th and early 15th centuries from new wealth which came to the town from the Baltic maritime trade. As a key player in the Hanseatic League, King’s Lynn was once one of the most important ports in the country, trading across northern and eastern Europe. Dendrochronological analysis shows that oak used in some of the woodwork tracery at the chapel is from trees felled around 600 years ago in modern-day Poland, and imported to King’s Lynn for use in the chapel.

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of The Churches Conservation Trust, said: ‘I couldn’t be more proud of the partnership between the people of King’s Lynn and The Churches Conservation Trust which has made the rescue of this internationally important building possible.  The roof angels of St Nicholas’ were in danger of being lost forever before the community mobilised to help us save the chapel. Thanks to funds raised locally and the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, St Nicholas’ is now once again open for all to see in its full glory, with the added benefit that it can now be used as an important cultural venue at the heart of the local community’. 

Before the restoration, leaks in the chapel’s roof had caused rotting timbers and damage to the roof angels caused by death-watch beetles. As well as re-roofing of the building to preserve the incredible carved angels beneath it, the restoration work has included the installation of solar panels on the roof, and a state-of-the-art kitchen and toilets, which will help to breathe new life into the chapel as a cultural venue for events, concerts, fairs and exhibitions.

Sara Croft, Head of Historic Environment at HLF, said: ‘St Nicholas’ Chapel is one of Norfolk’s best-loved and most beautiful buildings.  Witness to over 600 years of history, it’s now set to once more take its place as a key tourist attraction in King’s Lynn.  One of the project’s strengths has been the involvement of the local community and that commitment will ensure the chapel’s survival well into the future.  We’re proud to have supported this complex and inspiring restoration work with a £2.3m investment and couldn’t have done it without the help of National Lottery players across the UK’. 

The Friends of St Nicholas’ chapel generated over £210,000 towards the project, as well as extra funds to restore the building’s ring of eight bells. They will remain actively involved in the management of the building, organising regular events, the first of which  - Fanfare for St Nick’s – is already scheduled for 17th October. 

Adrian Parker, Chairman of the Friends of St Nicholas’ Chapel said: ‘It’s a great pleasure that the Chapel is about to open again for use by the people of King’s Lynn.  More than a year of building work has repaired the roof, and brought in the lighting, heating and facilities needed for regular community use.  I’m looking forward to seeing lots of people mark this new life by going to the grand opening weekend, and then at the Fairey Band concert on 17th October’. 

A special preview launch event on 8 September (right) brought together those who have been involved in the restoration, representatives of local organisations and the media to hear about the project. The chapel will officially reopen to the public at 11am on 12 September, when the ribbon will be cut by a local resident chosen to be given the honour in an online competition. The day will feature guided tours of the chapel and the local area, market stalls, storytelling, an art exhibition, food and drink and a free concert from 6.30pm. 

More about the project