Restored 18th Century Chapel reopens at Yorkshire Sculpture Park


Built in 1744 by Sir William Wentworth, the Georgian sandstone chapel is historically important within YSP’s Bretton Estate. It was designed by JamesMoyser, a prominent Yorkshire architect who also worked on Bretton Hall, the Palladian mansion which still stands at the Park today. The chapel was a place of worship for the various owners of the Estate, and the local community, for over 200 years until it was deconsecrated in the 1970s.


Prior to its acquisition by YSP in 2001, the chapel was neglected for many years, leading to serious deterioration in its condition and resulting in it being placed on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk Register. A report produced by English Heritage’s Historic Buildings Architect, Richard Jaques, informed the programme of work carried out over the last nine months. The lead professional advisor on the project was W R Dunn & Co Architects (RICS Conservation accredited building surveyor) and the appointed main contractor was William Anelay.

Restoration work to the outside of the building included the renewal of the roof, repairs to eliminate water ingress and damp, and the renovation of external stonework. Inside the chapel, repairs have been made to the floor and internal timbers, while climactic conditions have been enhanced with the introduction of new lighting, heating and ventilation systems, and an environmentally friendly air source heat pump. Visitors to the Park will now enjoy improved access to the chapel with a new pathway from the visitor centre, wheelchair access into the building and an accessible toilet.

The restoration of the chapel was supported by: English Heritage, Country Houses Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, The Headley Trust, The Pilgrim Trust, the Holbeck Charitable Trust, The Leche Trust, The John S Cohen Foundation, Sir George Martin Trust, Kenneth Hargreaves Charitable Trust, Linden Charitable Trust, Jill Franklin Trust, and generous visitor donations.

Trevor Mitchell, Yorkshire planning and conservation director at English Heritage, said: “The restoration of this stunning chapel and its new life as a top quality exhibition space show what an amazing resource we have in our region’s historic buildings. With imagination, well targeted funding and partnership working we can help get special buildings like the Bretton Estate chapel off the Heritage at Risk Register and back into use – so once again local people, as well Yorkshire’s many visitors, can enjoy them.”

The exhibition, the first by Ai Weiwei in a British public gallery since Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern in 2010, includes Iron Tree, 2013, a majestic six-metre high sculpture presented in the chapel courtyard, the installation Fairytale-1001 Chairs, 2007-14, presented inside the chapel, and two other works: the porcelain Ruyi, 2012, and marble sculpture, Lantern, 2014, which makes its premiere in the UK. The sculptures relate to ideas about freedom and to the individual within society, whilst also connecting with the history and character of the building.

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