Construction of the church began after the sugar crop of 1822
Construction of the church began after the sugar crop of 1822 but, as Daniel Davis reported in the following February, “The very short crop of last year combined with the difficulties in providing the timber for the roofing of the building has delayed the work, but I have every reason to hope from Mr Cottle’s zeal that he will do all in his power to complete his undertaking and I shall have commenced work there at no great distance of time”.
Chapels of similar size and design exist in the west of England – where the Cottle family originated – and in Wales. This church was sited in the middle of Cottle’s sugar plantation here at Round Hill, the family house being across the ghaut; the modern house which stands on its foundations can be seen from the island road. The church was built with locally quarried stone laid with a lime based mortar surmounted by a wooden roof. During the conservation work it became evident that the South West gable had collapsed later in the century, either through hurricane or earthquake, and its restoration was not of the same quality as the original. At some point the interior walls were plastered. A small vestry was added to the South wall and this too collapsed but not until the 1990s. On the interior of that wall can be seen the outline where Cottle’s memorial plaque hung before being taken to St Thomas’ Church.
After Cottle’s death in 1828 the church became known as "Mrs Cottle’s chapel" and was in regular use for some years. But by the early 1840s her son, Thomas John, found the estate unsustainable and the family moved to Canada, where they became prominent citizens of Woodstock, Ontario. His great-granddaughters currently live in Toronto, Canada.
Though abandoned for regular worship the church and graveyard continued to be used for burials. But by the middle of the century it was fast becoming a ruin until in 1859 Sir T. Graham Briggs (d. 1889), a planter from Barbados, acquired the Round Hill estate and came to live there. He completely restored the chapel and once again it became a private chapel, ministered to by the rector of St James (the parish in which the estate lies) and was known as St Mark’s chapel.
After Sir Graham returned to Barbados the chapel continued to be used as a chapel-of-ease until the early 1900s. The Antigua Church Calendar of 1893 records, “At Round Hill there is a private chapel re-built at his own expense by Sir Graham Briggs, Bt. Here the rector holds a Sunday afternoon service.”
A number of islanders today recall their grandparents telling them that they came to pray here in those days. One Nevisian recalls a visit in the 1930s when he remarked on the headstones to the graves standing proud, the organ still in place. The headstones, many facing stones and all the corner stones of the building have been stolen.Such was the continuing deterioration of the building that in the 1950s the memorial plaque to Thomas Cottle together with two other wall memorials and five small tablets commemorating those buried here were removed for safekeeping to St Thomas’s church. Books and ornaments were distributed over the island. The font stands in the Nevis Museum of National History.
“A lovely setting"
“Beautiful, peaceful location - quite emotional”
“Quiet and contemplative”
“First integrated church in the caribbean”
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