Methodist and Nonconformist Chapels in Cornwall

Guidance and Assessment Framework

Historic England, in collaboration with Cornwall Council and the Methodist Church, has produced guidance to help congregations, new owners and professional advisors make informed decisions about how to adapt and make changes to nonconformist chapels.

The Assessment Framework provides a stepped approach to establish what is special about chapels and their associated buildings, as well as the contributions made by their surroundings to the experience of place. This is in order to understand the significance, the contribution made by its setting and the historic character of each chapel. Understanding these factors early in the process will help to determine what capacity there is for change and indicate the nature of change that will be least harmful. Real examples of different types of works undertaken in nonconformist places of worship is provided within this guidance to show that even where change has occurred, the buildings can continue to contribute positively to what makes them special.

The document is aimed at:

  • congregations that are looking to use their buildings differently
  • new owners in cases where worship has ceased, who are considering alternative uses
  • professional advisors who are helping to inform congregations or new owners on the approach to change

The focus of the guidance is on Cornwall which has a rich Methodist history but is experiencing a growing trend of chapel closures. This is placing an increased pressure on the buildings and their fabric to accommodate new roles and uses. Although, the emphasis of the Assessment Framework is on Cornwall, the same format can be applied to all nonconformist places of worship throughout the country. The case studies reflect the national impact of these issues but with no one example being the single exemplary model of conversion or alteration.

The examples demonstrate that an assessment-based approach is the most productive way to finding locally appropriate solutions to the challenges and issues that congregations and new owners face.

This guidance is based on the work undertaken in Guidance for Methodist and Nonconformist chapels in Cornwall 2010 which it replaces.


The appendix provides an illustrated guide to the historic character and significance of chapels. Its aim is to inform congregations, new owners and their professional advisors on their history, relationship to the landscape, development and internal and external features that can contribute to the significance of the building. This is done through the use of examples. It should be read in conjunction with the main guidance.


  • Introduction
  • Using the Assessment Framework
    Stage 1: Understanding significance 
    Stage 2: Capacity for Change
    Stage 3: Design
  • Where to get information
  • Appendix 1: An Illustrated Guide to Historic Cornish Chapels

Additional Information

  • Series: Guidance
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Pages: Main report 42pp; Appendix 38pp
  • Product Code: HEAG257


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