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  Belmont Chapel. Click for larger version

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Birth of Belmont Chapel

Soon after Margaret Mercer arrived at Belmont (see Story of Margaret Mercer for more information), she petitioned the Bishop of Virginia for the establishment of a parish church at Belmont. The nearest church was at Leesburg (Shelburne Parish, St. James Church), too far away to be convenient for most of the people around Belmont. Moreover, the road to Leesburg was a toll road (see Stone Bridge and Tollhouse for more information) and Shelburne Parish still charged "pew rents" to its congregation. Most of the local population of Ashburn could afford neither.

Unfortunately, neither funds nor support for the idea of a Belmont church were forthcoming from Richmond, so in 1841, using some of the profits from a kind of collective farm she had established as well as the proceeds of craft sales by the pupils of her school, she had the first Belmont Chapel built.

It was a simple but stately building of wood and stone, having a gallery inside an arched, fieldstone-gothic facade some 40 feet high. There were large, clear glass windows along the walls and the interior was of plaster with Georgian wood trim, all in white.

To the right is local artist Mary Hope Worley's rendition of Belmont Chapel. (Used with permission. "Wedding At Belmont" is copyrighted by Mary Hope Worley.) Click on the image to learn more about the painting.

Wedding at Belmont by Mary Hope Worley. Click for details

The Chapel also had a semi-circular raised platform on which stood an imposing pulpit and before which stood a simple altar table. The platform was surrounded by a simple communion rail crafted by young Morris Wampler, son of one of the teachers at the school and later an officer in the 8th Virginia Infantry (CSA) and an engineer for General P.G.T. Beauregard.

Miss Mercer then persuaded the then Rector of Shelburne, the Rev. Mr. George Adie, to visit the Chapel regularly to preach and administer the Sacraments. There are records that successive bishops of Virginia visited Belmont Chapel on numerous occasions to Confirm and visit Miss Mercer, whom they considered to be "a woman of singular grace and spiritual beauty."

Belmont Chapel soon became a center for community worship and other social and educational activity. It was to be the site of countless weddings, baptisms and funerals, as attested by the large churchyard of nearly 250 graves which surrounds the Chapel to this day and which is the final resting place of local citizens whose names are among the most well known (and least known) in Loudoun County history.

Death of Belmont Chapel

The last recorded religious event held at the Chapel appears to have been a wedding in 1951. After that date, and following a long decline in the fortunes of the Farmwell/Ashburn area generally, the building fell into serious disrepair. The carriage road leading to the Chapel became overgrown, as did indeed all of the Chapel property. The roof fell in following a storm and the remainder of the building, except for the foundation and a portion of the grand stone facade, was finally destroyed by a fire set by vandals in 1963.

Rebirth of Belmont Chapel?

St. David's Episcopal Church, upon whose grounds the chapel ruins lie, plans to rebuild Belmont Chapel.


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