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The Watts Memorial Chapel in Compton, Surrey

Watts Mausoleum Watts Mausoleum

George Frederic Watts was an artist, a contemporary of the pre-Raphaelites but not one of the brotherhood. He owned a house in the village of Compton in Surrey where he lived and worked with his second wife, Mary. They were great supporters of local handicrafts and when the village acquired a new burial ground Mrs Watts designed the mortuary chapel.

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Watts Mausoleum Celtic-design grave covering at Watts Mausoleum] Watts Mausoleum

Mary Watts lived from 1849 to 1938 and apparently had no formal training as an architect but, with the help of the people of Compton, she succeeded in making an exquisite building in an Italianate style with terracotta tiling and a stunning mural in the small, vaulted, interior. The clay came from the grounds of their house and the designs were derived from Celtic symbolism, including the Book of Kells.

Work started in 1895 and was completed in 1898 since when the building has served as both a chapel and a tourist attraction. The grounds are now used as a cemetary for the village and GF, his wife, and members of the family are buried there. The style of many of the gravestones echoes the mausoleum itself (or perhaps the other way around). Towering above everything but the chapel itself are the Irish yew trees that Mrs Watts planted 100 years ago. To celebrate the centenary of the building there has been some reconstruction work done in the grounds around the chapel. This has now finished and the chapel is undisturbed once more. In it's way, this striking building is as much a delightful archetectural anachronism in this quiet Surrey setting as the Italianate village in Wales which was the setting for the Prisoner TV series in the '60s.

Links (open in new windows):
Watts Gallery including a page on the chapel
Portraits of GF Watts in the UK National Portrait Gallery.

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