Watch a short video on Watts Cemetery Chapel
‘It is no exaggeration to say that the Watts Cemetery Chapel is one of the most beautiful, one of the most extraordinary, original, marvellous and magical buildings in the whole of the British Isles!’- Lucinda Lambton
Watts Cemetery Chapel is a Grade I listed building which stands on Budburrow Hill in Compton near Guildford in Surrey. In May 1894 Compton Parish Council announced their plans to purchase this plot of land to use as burial ground. Four years later, on 1st July 1898, the Chapel was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester and today it is still a working cemetery chapel.
Visitors are drawn to the bright red brick of this Arts and Crafts masterpiece. Up close the extraordinary design and decoration both fascinates and overwhelms. Mary Watts (1849-1938) most likely had the vision to design, build and decorate the Chapel in 1891. George and Mary Watts had recently built Limnerslease in Compton, which became their winter residence.
In November 1895 Mary began to run Thursday evening Terracotta Home Arts Classes at Limnerslease. At these classes Mary would instruct the local villagers how to model tiles from local clay with the beautiful and symbolic patterns that she had designed for the decorations on the walls of the Chapel.
Through painting commissioned portraits, G F Watts financed the building of the Chapel and presented it as his gift to Compton. The architect consulted about its construction, and who designed the metal work on the doors, was George Tunstal Redmayne FRIBA (1840-1912).
Mary was the artistic force behind the creation of Watts Cemetery Chapel and she dedicated it ‘to the loving memory of all who find rest near its walls, and for the comfort and help of those to whom the sorrow of separation remains’ (Mary Watts, Word in the Pattern, p. 3).
The Cemetary attached to the Chapel has recently been given Grade II* listing status by English Heritage. This will give it protection in the planning system and safeguard it for future generations.
Watts Gallery's Curator Dr Nicholas Tromans commented:
'This listing of the Cemetery is recognition of its very special status as a place where landscape, art and remembrance are blended in a very beautiful way. G.F. and Mary Watts both rest here, as do many other people close to the Gallery at different times over its history. That the Cemetery is now itself seen as a place with a unique heritage that deserves to be protected brings it into an even closer relationship with the Gallery and Limnerslease where the Watts heritage is also preserved and valued, and where it inspires new generations.'
The Chapel is Parish property and is open to the public daily. It is locked up at night.
Please remember that it is still the village cemetery chapel and is sometimes in use.