great meeting

Founded in 1672 the Great Meeting Chapel is the oldest nonconformist congregation in Leicester

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Leicester Unitarians

Our history

Leicester’s Unitarian Chapel
Leicester’s Unitarian Chapel, known historically as ‘The Great Meeting’ – was built in 1708. It is the oldest complete brick building in Leicester and one of the most important historic buildings to survive in the city.

Significant contribution to the life of the town
The congregation was the most important and influential in Leicester during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and members made a significant contribution to the political, economic, and cultural life of the town out of all proportion to their size or numbers.

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries its members played a leading part in the development of the Leicester hosiery trade. As the economy grew they made a similar contribution to the establishment of mechanised worsted spinning and banking in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The Rev. Dr Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)
Unitarian minister, scientist and political radical.
Photo courtesy of the Trustees of Dr Williams’s Library.

19th century work
In the nineteenth century Chapel members helped found the Mechanics Institute; the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society and the Leicestershire Archaeological Society.

Major benefactors
In the twentieth century Joseph Fielding Johnson, a member of the congregation, was a major benefactor of University College, now the University of Leicester, and the main administrative block (which had been the old ‘County Lunatic Asylum’!) is now named after him.

The Gimson Committee Room at the University recognises the gift of Gimson furniture to the University by Christopher Gimson, also associated with the congregation. Another member, Edwin Clephan, has a building at De Montfort University named after him.


Distinguished people
Ministers to the congregation included a number of distinguished men. Revd. Charles Berry, together with the leading members of his congregation, played a major part in the movement for political reform in the town during the early nineteenth century.

The first seven mayors of the town following municipal reform in 1835 were members of the Chapel and as a result it became known locally as ‘The Mayor’s Nest’.

Active in today's world
Today a number of members of the congregation are very active in public and political life.

Great Meeting
Unitarian Chapel

45 East Bond Street
Leicester LE1 4SX

Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel is the oldest complete brick building in Leicester

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