History

Kendal Chapel has a long history and has stood for nearly 300 years.

In 1687 a Dissenting congregation was founded at Kendal, but there was at the time no permanent meeting house. Some dated pew-ends, now in the chapel vestry, suggest that a permanent home was found in 1691, although the site of this is unknown.

The present Kendal Unitarian Chapel was built in 1720, during the ministry of Rev. Caleb Rotheram. In 1733 he began his Academy where he educated about 120 laymen and 56 divinity students.

Two years after the minister's death in 1752, Rev. Caleb Rotheram Jr. became minister of this chapel and in 1785 he started a Sunday School. He died on 30 January 1796 aged 63 after 40 years as minister, and is buried in the chapel yard.

During the time of the next minister, Rev. John Harrison, who is also buried in the chapel yard, an occasional worshipper was the poet William Wordsworth. An Act of Parliament passed in 1837 enabled marriages to be solemnised in non-conformist places of worship, and the chapel was registered for this purpose in that year.

In September 1881 the chapel was closed for the purpose of 'improving the barn-like appearance of the ceiling, putting in a new heating apparatus in place of unsightly stoves, and erecting a new organ, removing the antiquated leaden windows and the dilapidated seats on the cold flag floor'. The cost of the refurbishment was almost £1000.

The renovation created the chapel we see today.

A new organ was fitted by its builders Messrs. Wilkinson & Sons of Kendal. The chapel was re-opened on 16th March 1882 when Mr. Wilkinson, the builder of the organ, 'presided thereat, and well proved its qualities by skilful performance'.

During the same month, the foundation stone of the Sunday School was laid. The schoolroom is still used today and is a fine example of Victorian architecture.

During the period 1945-50, in the time of Rev. Deakin's ministry, it was decided to move the box tombs in front of the chapel and make the area a Garden of Remembrance by planting shrubs and flowers.

In 1958 additional support for the chapel roof required the reconstruction of the chapel ceiling and further renovation at a cost of just over £2000.

The chapel memorial lights, designed by the then minister, Rev. T.M. Wardle, were placed on the walls in 1959 and were donated by members of the congregation in memory of loved ones.

In 1997 a local amateur glass enthusiast, Mr. John Parker of Bowness-on-Windermere, renovated the Victorian stained windows in the porch.

The side garden was dedicated in 2000 as a Multi-Faith Garden of Remembrance, where the ashes of several people of different faiths now rest.

In 2003 new gates incorporating the flaming chalice were made by a local craftsman, and in 2006 the schoolroom was extended to provide more up-to-date facilities and disabled access.

The chapel and schoolroom are listed buildings. They are open to the public when the chapel is open (Wed, Sat and Sun mornings), or by arrangement. The chapel is also open during the English Heritage Weekend in September.