Bugby Chapel

by Nick


If you come out of Epsom station, cut round the back of the library, and keep heading east you will find a main road lined by 1980s office blocks, inhabited by a jobcentre and various financial services companies. The streets behind them are a mix of late-Victorian two-up two-downs, built around the time the railways came to Epsom, and 1970s terraced houses. This part of the town used to have lots of bigger eighteenth- and nineteenth century buildings, but most of them have long since been demolished.

One which does survive, though, is Bugby Chapel. It sits in the middle of an estate full of bungalows and maisonettes, and it is easy to walk within 50 yards of it and never realise it is there. It was built in 1779, as a chapel for the nonconformist minister William Bugby. Nine years later the vicar of Epsom, Jonathan Boucher, described it thus:

There was formerly a congregation of Presbyterians here, and a meeting-house, but they are all gone or have conformed; and the meeting-house is shut up. A few years ago, a gardener of the place, by traversing, it is said, a great part of the kingdom, collected money enough to build a small house, where he now has a small and uncertain congregation of Methodists. He has a licence, as a protestant dissenter. Of the inhabitants of Epsom, I cannot learn that there are so many as 20 who are his stated and constant attendants, and they are chiefly people of the lowest class. Yet he sometimes has large congregations. This preacher’s name is Bugby.

W. R. Ward, Parson and Parish in Eighteenth-Century Surrey (Surrey Record Society, 1994),  p. 109.

In fact the congregation seems to have been Calvinists – presumably Particular Baptists – rather than adherents of Wesleyan Methodism. The church’s small numbers seem to have petered out altogether by the early nineteenth century, but it was then revived and at some point became a Unitarian Baptist congregation, when it was known as Salem Chapel.

This congregation in turn moved to new premises at the other end of the town, and in 1954 the building was reconsecrated as a synagogue. It lasted in this role until the 1990s, at which point the building was renovated and turned over to use as an office. It had been listed in 1975 with this description:

C18.  Rendered. Hipped and sprocketed tile roof. 1 storey. Brick modillion eaves cornice. South side has 2 round-arched windows with intersecting glazing bars. Panelled double doors, gabled hood with
pitched tile roof and bargeboards. North side has 2 round-arched sashes.

According to the listing entry the building seems to have been part of a much longer row of eighteenth and nineteenth-century houses, which presumably were demolished and replaced.

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