A project to develop and extend a nineteenth-century chapel for community use has been granted £1.3 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The Chichester Community Development Trust plans to convert Graylingwell Chapel into a community venue where events, exhibitions, performances and film screenings will be hosted.
The history of the chapel, which was originally used by people with mental health conditions from the West Sussex County Lunatic Asylum and as a place of refuge by soldiers from both world wars, will also be celebrated with a heritage exhibition at the site.
A café, to be built as a modern extension to the western side of the building, will serve food sourced from local producers and will be available for local events.
Clare de Bathe, director of the Chichester Community Development Trust, said: “This is the most important gift The National Lottery Heritage Fund could have provided to the people of this area.
“We have spent the past two years consulting with the local community to understand their needs and desires to ensure that the facility will be thoroughly enjoyed by all.
“Not only will it be a fascinating glimpse into our local history, it will continue to progress the conversation about mental health, as well as providing a hugely enjoyable venue for families, children and friends to come together, relax and enjoy themselves with the beautiful café and play area.”
A further £221,000 for the scheme will be co-funded by the Chichester District Council, using section 106 community facilities contributions, added to the legacy amount provided by Linden Homes.
The traditional architecture and stained glassed windows at the chapel, which was built in 1890, will be retained and accompanied by modern art, furniture and underfloor heating.
Visitors will be able to see the separate entrances to the chapel which once existed for men and women.
Louise Rudziak, Director of Housing and Communities at Chichester District Council, said: “When the redevelopment of Graylingwell was first outlined it was hoped that future residents would help shape what the use of this building would look like.
“We are delighted that the community led design process has resulted in such an exciting blend of celebrating the history of Graylingwell and providing facilities for residents from across North East Chichester.”
The heritage exhibition at the chapel will feature the stories both of the families who were cared for and the staff who worked at the mental health hospital at Graylingwell – which closed in 2001.
The mental health support provided at the new centre will take inspiration from the activities previously used as holistic treatments at the hospital, such as arts, craft, cookery and outdoor work.