A short history of the former Chapel, now The Parade Cinema.
The building we have renovated was built in 1817 as a chapel by non-conformists, of which Marlborough was one of the chief strongholds. It was extended later to add the attached Manse, the minister’s house. The chapel finally shut its doors in 1984 and became an antiques centre which closed in 2016.
Its roots of non-conformism were established in the 16th century when Queen Mary did her utmost to crush the growing spirit of Independency and re-establish Roman Catholicism. In 1558, two men of Marlborough were due to be burnt to death for their Protestant faith but the brave under-sheriff burnt the writ and not the men. Miraculously, Queen Mary died before violent retribution ensued.
The Act of Uniformity in 1662 was passed to stamp out independence of worship. Two thousand vicars and rectors in England gave up their homes and livings as a result, including William Hughes, vicar of St Mary’s in Marlborough and the father of non-conformism in the town. He built up a non-conformist following, often preaching in the surrounding woods and fields to such as would follow him, until persecution hastened his death in 1687. In 1681, the inhabitants of Marlborough were considered “a seditious, schismatical people”.
In 1689, the Toleration Act was passed which established freedom of worship. This allowed the considerable number of non-conformists in Marlborough to build their own place of worship. After “having been abruptly and cruelly turned out of the place in which they long worshipped” they raised the money by public subscription in 1817 to build the splendid chapel which we have now given a new life and purpose. We hope they look down and approve of the pleasure their building will give, hopefully for the next 200 years.