Union Chapel, Islington

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Union Chapel
Islington union chapel 1.jpg
October 2006 photo of the Union Chapel
Coordinates: 51°32′41″N 0°06′09″W / 51.544707°N 0.102503°W / 51.544707; -0.102503
Location London Borough of Islington
Country England
Denomination Congregationalist
Website www.unionchapel.org.uk
Architect(s) James Cubitt
Years built 1874–1877, additions through 1890
Minister(s) Karen Stallard and Vaughan Jones

Union Chapel is a working church, live entertainment venue and charity drop-in centre for the homeless in Islington, London, England. Built in the late 19th century in the Gothic revival style, the church is Grade I-listed. It is at the top end of Upper Street, near Highbury Fields.

As a venue[edit]

The church interior, prepared for a music performance

The church hosts live music and comedy events, and was voted London's Best Live Music Venue by readers of Time Out magazine in 2012.[1]

Margins Homelessness Project[edit]

The Margins Project, based in the Union Chapel, provides a range of support services to people facing homelessness, crisis and isolation. It operates a Sunday drop-in that provides meals, showers and laundry facilities. It also offers help with accessing housing, employment and health services and weekly art classes.[2]

Church in the Chapel[edit]

Union Chapel is a Congregational church, which describes itself as "liberal, inclusive, non-hierarchical, and non-conformist" and meets every Sunday for worship.[3] The church is also open on Wednesday mornings for private prayer, and a Bible study group meets Wednesday lunchtime.


The congregation first met in 1799 in a house in Highbury Grove as a union of evangelical Anglicans and non-conformists, and moved to a previous building on the present site in Compton Terrace, just off Upper Street, in 1806. The current building is in the Victorian gothic style of architecture. It was designed by James Cubitt of Loughton, and built between 1874 and 1877, with further additions from 1877 to 1890, while Henry Allon was pastor.[4] The chapel was used for a major scene in the 1982 film, Who Dares Wins. Since 1982, the charity Friends of Union Chapel has helped restore and preserve the church and organise activities.[5] Behind the church is the large Sunday School, built on the Akron Plan.


  • Thomas Lewis 1804–1852
  • Henry Allon 1844–1892
  • Hardy Harwood 1891–1914
  • Ronald Taylor 1940–1980
  • Gareth Trevor Jones 1981–1986
  • Janet Wootton 1987–?
  • Karen Stallard 2010–present
  • Vaughan Jones 2017–present


The Organ at Union Chapel was designed and built specially for the size and acoustics of the new Chapel building in 1877 by master organ builder Henry "Father" Willis. It is undoubtedly one of the finest in the world. Neither James Cubitt, the architect of the Chapel, nor Rev Henry Allon, the minister at the time, wanted the congregation to be distracted by the sight of an organ or organist: they wanted the music itself to be the focus during worship. So the organ is deliberately hidden away behind ornate screens under the rose window, which itself actually hints at the organ’s importance, with its depiction of eight angels all playing different musical instruments. It is one of just two organs left in the United Kingdom, and the only one in England, with a fully working original hydraulic (water powered) blowing system, which can be used as an alternative to the electric blowers.

The organ was restored in 1946 by Monk & Gunther[6] and by Harrison & Harrison in 2013.



  1. ^ "London's top 20 music venues revealed". Time Out. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "Welcome to the Margins Project". Chapel website. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  3. ^ "Union Chapel – Church". Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  4. ^ "History of Union Chapel". Chapel website. Archived from the original on 22 January 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  5. ^ "Who the Friends are". Chapel website. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  6. ^ "Union Chapel". National Pipe Organ Register. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cherry, Bridget, ed. (2007), Dissent and the Gothic Revival: papers from a study day at Union Chapel, Islington, London: The Chapels Society ISBN 9780954506117 Includes: The building of Union Chapel / Anthony Richardson – 'The most vital bonds of union', Union Chapel and Congregationalism / Clyde Binfield—The Union Chapel archives and library / Richard Wallington.'Sunday schools and the life and work of the chapel'/ Chris Pond

External links[edit]