Permanent home found for plaque after 'decades of struggle'

Plaque designer Penny Loudon and Revd Canon Edward Carter next to the bronze memorial plaque

Plaque designer Penny Loudon and Revd Canon Edward Carter next to the bronze memorial plaque - Credit: Michael Winter

A plaque dedicated to the founder of Norwich's first asylum has finally found a home after 40 years of "frustrated attempts". 

The life of Mary Chapman, founder of the former Bethel Hospital in 1713, will be now be forever celebrated at St Peter Mancroft Church. 

A plaque has been installed on the wall in the church's south aisle after a chance meeting between designer Penny Loudon and the newly appointed vicar Revd Canon Edward Carter. 

A portrait of Mary Chapman - hanging in the Child and Family Centre on Hotblack Road, Norwich

A portrait of Mary Chapman - hanging in the Child and Family Centre on Hotblack Road, Norwich - Credit: Contributed

Mrs Loudon said: "It's been 40 years of frustrated attempts to find a permanent home for the plaque.

"I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to absolutely everyone who helped and supported me in finding the plaque a final resting place, and I’m sure that Mary Chapman would have been delighted."

Born on March 24, 1647, Chapman was the third daughter of John Mann, a wealthy weaver who was mayor of Norwich in 1653 and high sheriff of Norfolk in 1649. 

Alongside her husband the Revd Samuel Chapman, she decided to found Bethel Hospital due to concerns over the treatment of people with poor mental health. 

Bethel Hospital in Norwich. Picture: SAVE Britain's Heritage

Bethel Hospital in Norwich. Picture: SAVE Britain's Heritage - Credit: Archant

The idea to raise money for a plaque started in 1988 when the staff of the Child and Family Centre in Hotblack Road decided to hold a ball in the old Bethel to commemorate Mary.

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A collaborative effort between Derek Morris, tutor in fine arts at Norwich School, and Mrs Loudon resulted in a bronze plaque being crafted. 

And the plaque is due to be dedicated in St Peter Mancroft at a special Evensong on Sunday, November 14 at 5pm.

A spokesman for St Peter Mancroft said: "The plaque being in St Peter Mancroft is a fitting tribute with Mary and her husband being married there and worshipping there.

"The vicar of St Peter Mancroft at the time regularly held services and took communion to Bethel Hospital for the patients."

The bronze plaque dedicated to Mary Chapman 

The bronze plaque dedicated to Mary Chapman - Credit: Contributed

When Mary died in 1724 she made sure in her will that Bethel Hospital continued and would not allow cruel treatments of patients to become a peep show as at Bedlam in London.

She was buried at St Andrew's Church, Thorpe St Andrew.

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