Great Witley Chapel is located about one mile from the famous Baroque Parish Church of Saint Michael and All Angels adjacent to the Tenbury Wells to Worcester road close to the Village school and Village Hall. The chapel closed in 1977 and is now the Headquarters for the Abberley and Witley Scout and Guide Association.
History of the Chapel
The chapel was built in 1882 as a Cemetery Chapel in the new graveyard and was licensed that year. In 1895 it was enlarged so that it might be used regularly for services. The Vestry was added in 1897.
It is a plain red brick building with stone facings having a three sided apse and at the west end a small bell cote for a single small bell. The main door is on the north side near the west end and has a small porch. Opening into the nave by a similar door opposite this is the vestry. Inside the chapel was plastered and colour washed. The roof construction was a double framed roof of pine, the principals and collars arch braced. Seating was by chairs. The chapel had a marble font on a stone pedestal which was from the parish church built in 1735.
A lych gate of open timber roofed with tiles provides the entrance to the graveyard. On the North westerly boundary is the village war memorial by Davies of Worcester listing the names of those from the parish who lost their lives during the First and Second World Wars.
The Closure of Great Witley Chapel (1972-1977)
During the 1970s there was a significant decline in church attendance throughout the parish of Great & Little Witley. There were three churches to maintain and the meagre income was not sufficient to meet the soaring costs. Therefore the Parochial Church Council (PCC) was under increasing pressure to find ways of making savings.
The future of the Baroque Parish Church was secure because of its status as a Grade 1 listed Building. A restoration programme was well under way, supported by grants and other funding benefactors. The two chapels (one at Great and one at Little Witley were under used and costly to maintain, so their future was being questioned. As both chapels were considered to have less architectural merit, the PCC was urged to consider closing them and find other uses for the buildings.
On 5th July 1972 after years of detailed study which showed in the period 1968- 1971 average attendance at main morning services as 47 at the Parish Church, 14 at Great Witley Chapel and 13 at Little Witley Chapel a special meeting was held to consider all the hard facts and listen to all opinions.After lengthy discussion, the decision was then taken to close both Great and Little Witley chapels, unless parishioners could put forward another solution. However the decision was implemented immediately because in the years that followed, great efforts were made to encourage parishioners to come to the rescue.
In August 1972 a letter was sent to every parishioner explaining the position. For a further two years, the PCC continued to hope that parishioners might rise to the challenge, but attendances did not improve and income continued to fall. On 14th November 1974, the PCC was faced with the prospect of urgent costly building work and a new heating system. Still no support was forthcoming from parishioners. Therefore it was necessary to consider the implementation of the 1972 resolution to close the two chapels.
For a further year the discussion continued in a desperate attempt to stir the conscience of parishioners. In Little Witley parishioners responded to the challenge and showed determination to save Little Witley chapel. On 30th June 1975 a public meeting was held at Little Witley Village Hall and there was significant support for saving the chapel in Little Witley. There was an encouraging response. Congregations and income rose accordingly, thereby safeguarding the future of the chapel.
In Great Witley there was no similar enthusiasm from parishioners, so on 12th February 1976 the PCC regretfully resolved to implement the closure of Great Witley chapel. Over the next fourteen months the contents were removed. Items suitable for worship were given away to other churches and to great Witley School. Subsequently the building was sold to provide a much needed new headquarters for the Abberley and Witley Scout and Guide Association.