The Nonconformist Mortuary Chapel, Smallcombe

The small and charming nonconformist chapel at Smallcombe Cemetery was built in 1860-1 and designed by architect Alfred Samuel Goodridge (1828-1915). 

 

It is a bold example of the use of forms from key periods of medieval architecture within the Gothic Revival style during the second half of the nineteenth century that contributed to the development of High Victorian architecture. 

 

The simple octagonal body of the chapel is made striking through the use of a pyramidal roof and the bellcote over the entrance porch.  The lancet windows with cusped tops and the buttressing around the chapel show Goodridge exploring the Early English style of Gothic architecture, adapting it to suit his own Victorian style.  A source for inspiration for designing such a compact small building in this way was most likely the Abbott's Kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey, which the architect would undoubtedly have known either through personal visits or through publications.

 

The same use of Early English Gothic had been key to Thomas Fuller's design of the much bigger Anglican Chapel in Smallcombe completed in 1856.  Goodridge's building shares similarities to this earlier building in particular in the composition for the gabled entrance.  The more modest height of Goodridge's chapel however, is better suited to scale of the detailing he uses in the windows and alternating shaped slates on the roof than the taller, more prominent Fuller chapel.

 

A.S. Goodridge was a member of the Goodridge dynasty of builders and architects in Bath.  Alfred’s Grandfather, James Goodridge (1766-1849), was a builder and agent for the Bathwick estate and had established the family financially through his involvement with the expansion of that estate, including Great Pulteney Street. This security and success was then built upon by Alfred's father, architect Henry Edmund Goodridge (1797-1864), who rose to prominence as Baths most stylistically inventive architect in the first half of the nineteenth century following his creation of Lansdown Tower (Beckford's Tower) in 1826 for William Beckford. 

 

A S. Goodridge trained under his father and in the early 1850s they were working under the practice name Goodridge & Son at 7 Henrietta Street. The partnership resulted in the design for the Percy Chapel on Charlotte Street in Bath and a pair of semi-detached villas in Clifton, Bristol. He was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1852 and would later be involved in discussions over the education and qualifications required to ratify British architects through that organisation.  His other architectural work includes Ravenscroft (1876), a large detached house on Bathwick Hill developed in the grounds of his father's house Fiesole (now Bath Youth Hostel) and the drinking foundation in Laura Place (1877). His most substantial work however, was a new Town Hall for Trowbridge (1885-7) designed in a Jacobean revived style and reminiscent of Dutch town halls.

 

Alfred was married to Catharine Gertrude Grey (1843-1922) and by the 1870s they were living at De Montalt House in Combe Down.  The Goodridge architectural practice was eventually taken over in the early twentieth century by architect Mowbray Green, author of the seminal work The Eighteenth Century Architecture of Bath (1904) and a leading light in the conservation of the historic buildings in the city.

 

Alfred's younger brother Francis Goodridge (1831-1864) was buried in Smallcombe cemetery not long after the completion of the chapel. His grave can be found nearby in the Nonconformist section as the family was not of the Church of England (Anglican faith).  Montebello, the house on Bathwick Hill where both brothers grew up and which was designed by their father, can be seen from the cemetery.

Gallery
1 Sketch of Nonconformist chapel.
2 New Nonconformist chapel in forground, C of E in distance.
Yews, views and chapel over 150 years old
3 Alfred Goodridge's chapel today _lo
4 Octagonal Early English gothic_lo
5 Small windows and buttresses_lo
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