Community fears identity loss as historic chapel is set to close

St Francis Chapel. Picture: Google Maps
St Francis Chapel. Picture: Google Maps
Shahriar Uddin.''Picture: Habibur Rahman

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PLANS for hundreds of new homes and now the closure of an old chapel has villagers worried for the future of their community.

St Francis Chapel in Funtley is set to close next week and residents are concerned their village is losing its identity.

Resident Jason Mudge said: ‘The views of locals is much sadness, but also a realisation that with an ageing and dwindling congregation this was in fact inevitable.’

The chapel is an unconsecrated building meaning it never became a church and was instead operated as a day school.

It has been owned and overseen by the Parochial Church Council of St Peter and St Paul since 1933.

The Rev Roger Jackson, parish priest of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Fareham, said: ‘Almost from its beginnings, the building itself has given cause for concern for the small number of worshippers who regularly attend.’

Services are currently offered at the chapel twice a month.

Rev Jackson said: ‘However, we are very aware of the plans to develop a new town at Welborne, and aware that this building is not in the right place, and does not offer the right facilities for effective outreach to these new residents – just as we previously learnt from the development of Knowle village.’

‘Our parish and the diocese are in active consultation with the developers to ensure that there is a Christian presence in the heart of this new development.

‘With this in mind, together with our responsibilities for the maintenance of the building and the limited resources available, after long and careful deliberation, our PCC has decided that St Francis, as a chapel of ease, is no longer viable.

Fareham North Councillor Louise Clubley said: ‘It is very sad that the chapel is closing.

‘I remember going to services as a child when I went to the school nearby.

‘It is a beautiful grade II listed building so there will be strict guidelines on its future use by the church.’

The building houses a stained glass window and is reputed for being designed by John Ruskin, a leading art critic of the Victorian era.

Jason added: ‘Local people would very much like the church to become some kind of asset for the community, it will be interesting to see what the Church of England do with it.

‘It is on land gifted to the Parish so I would hope it isn’t sold as a private home, but frankly the building is not suitable for that anyway.’

The final Mass will be celebrated on Sunday July 15 at 11.30am.