Wakefield Chantry Chapel

This is a very special building, one of only three that survive – the others being at Rotherham and St Ives in Cambridgeshire. It is the oldest and most elaborate, and like Rochdale, is still in regular use for worship.

It was built after the bridge across the River Calder was built in 1342 and its licensed in 1356. They were built as shelter and support for travellers, and had lights upon their towers to guide them to safety. But they were closed at the Reformation and the priests pensioned off. It is 50 foot long, 25 foot wide and 36 foot from its foundation to the battlements.

But it fell into decay until restored under the design of George Gilbert Scott by the Yorkshire Architectural Society to serve the new parish of St Mary. But when the parish church was built in 1854 it was downgraded to become a chapel of ease. The stone heads include those of Edward III and Queen Philippa who reigned when the chapel was built. The statue of the Virgin was outside, but after falling into the river several times was brought indoors.

 

The front of the chapel is its third as the polluted air had caused extensive decay. Scott apologised for using Caen stone for the repairs, which was appropriate historically but too soft. He offered to replace it with stone from his home at Kettlethorpe Hall but he died before this was done. The original front was moved to the same place but after vandalism has again been moved to Thornes Park with other architectural relics including a column from Wakefield’s market cross.

The church serves a secular function as a buttress to the bridge which was widened in 1758 and again in 1797 reflecting the growth of the town. Traffic continued to increase, so another bridge was built to save the chapel from demolition.  The chapel has been flooded several times.

Wakefield_Bridge_Chantry-our-lady

Here’s an old postcard of the bridge

Wakefield_Chantry-postcard

And here’s one showing the other bridge chantries – but the Bradford on Avon one is clearly a blind house or lockup, similar to that at Trowbridge.

England's Bridge Chantries

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