Proprietary chapel

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A proprietary chapel is a chapel that originally belonged to a private person. In 19th century Britain they were common, often being built to cope with urbanisation. Frequently they were set up by evangelical philanthropists with a vision of spreading Christianity in cities whose needs could no longer be met by the parishes. Some functioned more privately, with a wealthy person building a chapel so they could invite their favourite preachers.[1] They are anomalies in English ecclesiastical law, having no parish area, but being able to have an Anglican clergyman licensed there. Historically many Anglican churches were proprietary chapels. Over the years they have often been converted into normal parishes.

"During the first half of the nineteenth century "proprietary" chapels flourished in Belgravia, Bath, and other fashionable resorts. They were extra-parochial, and were often run on a commercial basis, supported by pew-rents and sometimes built over wine vaults ... An ingratiating preacher, preferably an invalid ..., a well-nourished verger, and genteel pew-openers did their best to attract the quality ... An advertisement from the Times (1852) gives a good idea of the "ethos" of the proprietary chapel «A young man of family, evangelically disposed, and to whom salary is no object, may hear of a cure in a fashionable West End congregation by addressing the Reverend A.M.O. at Hatchards, Boosellers, Piccadilly.»"--Andrew L. Drummond The Churches in English Fiction. Leicester: Edgar Backus, 1950; pp. 30-31.

Today there are still a number of Anglican churches which are proprietary chapels, including one in Avonwick in Devon; Christ Church, Bath; Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon[1]; St John's Downshire Hill Hampstead [2]; St John the Evangelist's Church, Chichester[3] and St James' Ryde on the Isle of Wight[4]. St John's Chapel, Bedford Row was formerly proprietary.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ St James' Church; Church Society