Houghton St Giles, Walsingham, Norfolk, NR22 6AL
A large modern building in the form of a traditional hipped-roofed barn, built in 1982-3 to complement the services in the Slipper Chapel. It replaced an open-sided outdoor chapel built in the early 1970s to cater for large assemblies of pilgrims.
In the mid-fourteenth century a small wayside chapel, now known as The Slipper Chapel, was built at Houghton for pilgrims to the shrine at Walsingham. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the chapel passed into secular use until it was purchased in 1896 by Miss Charlotte Boyd, a recent Catholic convert, who commissioned the architect Thomas Garner to restore the building. Garner also built a house in a Gothic Arts and Crafts style next to the chapel. In 1934, the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, which had been erected at Kings Lynn in 1897, was translated to the Slipper Chapel at Houghton, which became the national shrine.
After the Second World War, with increasing numbers of pilgrims to the shrine, Mass was often said in the open air, using an open-sided pavilion as a canopy for the sanctuary. In the late 1960s the Diocese of Northampton began to improve the facilities for large-scale pilgrimages. A range of service buildings was completed in 1972 and work began on a large new open-sided structure on a concrete dais, with granite altar and timber roof, providing a more permanent covered outdoor sanctuary. Over the next decade a brief was developed for the construction of a proper chapel over the dais, seating 350 and with a sanctuary which could be opened out in summertime for large congregations on the meadow in front. The architects were Michael Wingate and Henry Rolph of Purcell Miller Tritton, Norwich. Building work began in September 1980 and the completed building was consecrated by Bishop Alan Clark of East Anglia on 22 May 1982.
At the time of writing, there are major plans for the redevelopment of the site. These include the replacement of the Chapel of Reconciliation with a large medieval-style building with a cloister in front.
The chapel is a large and striking building with the appearance of a Norfolk barn. It has low side walls of flint with red brick dressings and a steeply pitched roof, hipped with gablets at both ends and covered in red clay pantiles. On the long east side is a slight projection marking the sanctuary, with fully glazed walls which can be opened out to connect the building with an external congregational area. Otherwise the walls are punctuated by narrow slit windows glazed with hand-blown glass (made locally at Langham) set in lead.
The interior is a single undivided space, with walls of fair-faced brick. The roof structure is carried on steel portals giving a clear span across the space; the rafters and softwood ceiling boards are stained a warm colour. The floor is covered with carpet tiles, with timber benches made by Rob Corbett, a local cabinet maker, arranged in a fan-shape around the sanctuary. The altar is of Aberdeen granite. Alongside it is the tabernacle, made for the chapel at Craig Lockhart College, Edinburgh (1948) and acquired in 1986. Behind the sanctuary, the glass wall is capable of being opened up to accommodate large congregations. The pipe organ was built by Stephen Schumacher of Belgium; it is supplemented by an electronic organ.
Architect: Purcell Miller Tritton
Original Date: 1982
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed