Horton Chapel, Epsom has been named overall winner of the Surrey Heritage Awards 2022 organised by Surrey Historic Buildings Trust. Just a few years ago this was a derelict and vandalised building at risk of demolition, but thanks to a community-led heritage regeneration project it has been rescued and transformed into a local arts centre.

Built in 1901 to serve the patients of what was then called the London Asylum Hospital and Horton Mental Hospital, this little chapel was for a century part of Epsom’s sprawling ‘Hospital Cluster’, the largest complex of its kind in Europe. At its height, the cluster had five major psychiatric hospitals (each with its own chapel) and covered more than 1,000 acres, making it almost a town in its own right, with thousands of staff and patients and its own economic infrastructure including power generation and rail links. Now, The Horton is the sole survivor out of the original five chapels on-site, and in fact it’s one of just a few late-Victorian and Edwardian buildings still standing in the area, as so much of the Hospital Cluster has been redeveloped for housing in the last two decades.

Abandoned and left to decay after the closure of Horton Hospital, and subject to frequent bouts of vandalism, it’s no surprise that Horton Chapel ended up on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ Register. The volunteers of the Horton Chapel Arts and Heritage Society changed all that. They saved the chapel from ruin and set about preserving its unique architecture and restoring the fabric of the building so that it could become a local arts centre and an important hub for the local community. And what an amazing job they have done!

The Award for Best Craftsmanship in the Surrey Heritage Awards 2022 went to The Old Well Cottage, Peaslake. This is a distinctive timber-framed fourteenth-century hall house, with original wattle and daub panels. Repairs were carried out to the cottage using traditional materials and experienced local craftspeople. Where timber had decayed it was replaced with new oak to exactly the same dimensions. Some of the repairs were carried out using hazel cut from the cottage garden and local woodland. Our judging panel said that the project was carried out “using sound conservation techniques that will assure the building’s future”.

We were fortunate to have had such excellent conservation projects to choose from in this year’s Surrey Heritage Awards. The short list for the Awards also featured:

Colquhoun Chapel, Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, a mid-Victorian family mausoleum in Gothic Revival style. Built entirely in Bath stone; with a stone roof carried on arches, the chapel [pictured left] features intricately carved figures of knights in armour. Located in a remote corner of the cemetery it had become hidden in rhododendron bushes and trees, so the conservation programme required extensive scrub clearance as well as building repairs.

Naggs Stable, Loseley Park, Guildford, an outbuilding (part sixteenth-century and part eighteenth) on the Loseley Park Estate, previously used as a granary and storehouse. The building was in need of substantial repair and restoration, having been on the ‘Heritage at Risk’ Register, and has been sensitively restored and converted into offices. [Pictured right]

Mansion House Farm, Crowhurst, a fifteenth-century timber-framed hall house, a splendid example of the Surrey vernacular style, with oak beams and hanging tiles. Decay and weakening due to damp and infestations, necessitating a programme of specialist conservation and repairs including partial replacement of timbers and brickwork, and replacing some of the tiles with new handmade clay tiles.

St Mark’s Church, Upper Hale, Farnham, a late-Victorian church noted for its chancel wall murals painted between 1911 and 1914 by local artist Kitty Milroy, who studied at the Slade School of Fine Art. The murals had become seriously damaged after a century’s accumulation of dirt and the flaking of paint, resulting in a major project to clean, repair and restore the murals. Historic England recently announced Grade II listing for the church.

Almost a hundred people from across the county attended the Awards ceremony on 30 March 2022, at Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, which was hosted by our Patron, Lord-Lieutenant Michael More-Molyneux, who presented the awards. Among the attendees were the High Sheriff of Surrey; the mayors of no fewer than six Surrey boroughs; local historians; architects; conservationists; Friends of SHBT; and the project teams from each of the short-listed conservation projects.

The event was covered extensively by local media, including Surrey Life Magazine who published features about the Awards both before and after the event. A big thank-you to the SHBT team who made our Surrey Heritage Awards 2022 such a resounding success, especially our judging panel under the chairmanship of Dr Sean O’Neill, Director of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation.

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