MP welcomes planning approval for threatened heritage ‘jewel’

Planning approval is set to be granted to save a Grade 1 heritage site in Kingswood, delighting the area’s local MP.

An application has received the thumbs up from South Gloucestershire planners to redevelop the threatened Whitfield Tabernacle site which comprises of the Grade I listed Tabernacle, the Grade II Masters Church, the Grade II Chapel House and graveyard - a conservation area which is on Historic England’s Heritage At Risk Register.

The application from new site owners Crossman Homes seeks to convert the derelict Masters Church to 19 apartments, build 3 houses and provide a new public park.

There have been many failed attempts in the past to restore the historic site off Kingswood High Street. With the exception of the Chapel House which was sold off by the previous owners and restored in recent years, the rest of the site has continued to decay and blight the local area.

But with help secured through the West of England Combined Authority’s Love Our High Streets project, Kingswood is now a key area of focus. WECA funding will ensure a scheme of stabilisation is undertaken to protect the Tabernacle building – now owned by a Trust - while a bid is considered through the government’s Future High Streets Fund.

The Grade I listed Whitfield Tabernacle is an important survival from the eighteenth-century evangelical movement and is considered to date from 1741. The Tabernacle was constructed at the request of George Whitfield who donated money for the building when he left to preach in America. Whitfield was a contemporary of Charles and John Wesley at Oxford and together with John Cennick of Bristol were largely responsible for establishing Methodism as a separate church of which Wesleyan Methodism was the largest element.

Local MP Chris Skidmore, who has previously secured funding from Historic England for the Tabernacle, said:

“The Whitfield Tabernacle site is the historic jewel in Kingswood’s crown and is of huge international significance. It’s a disgrace that the site looks the way it does and that this has gone on for so long.

Kingswood residents have waited long enough for this site to be properly restored so it can contribute to and celebrate our town’s proud history.

Having held various meetings over the years with Historic England, the Council, Tabernacle Trustees and more recently with new site owners Crossman Homes, I am pleased to see this application come forward and that it has approval from council planners.

Having been born and brought up in Kingswood, I have never known a time when there has been so much momentum behind finally investing in this site as part of a wider regeneration of our much-loved High Street.”