Chantry Chapel of St Mary the Virgin

The chapel was built in the mid 14th century when the stone bridge replaced a wooden one, although the upper part, including the west front, was rebuilt in 1847-8.

About this church

The chapel’s purpose was to provide for a priest to say mass for the souls of the dead to reduce their time in purgatory. It was closed as a mass house in the mid 16th century on the Dissolution of the Chantries.

It was bought by a member of the Savile family of Yorkshire magnates and was later given to the Trustees of the Wakefield Poor (now the Governors of the Wakefield Charities). For almost three centuries it was used for many secular purposes; as a cheesecake shop, a corn merchant's office and a newsroom, for example, and finally as premises for a tailor.

It was leased in the latter part of the 18th century by the West Riding magistrates so that they could keep it in some repair and thus avoid the bridge being weakened. The magistrates widened the bridge twice on the upstream side.

The chantry was restored to the church in the 1840s when the Oxford Movement quickened interest in medieval church buildings. The restoration was overseen by the Yorkshire Architectural Society and designed by George Gilbert Scott. It meant a rebuilding of the upper part of the chapel. The original front was sold to the Norton family and erected at Kettlethorpe Hall.

The chantry reopened for worship in 1848 and was used for six years (until a new church was built) as the parish church of the new parish of St Mary.

Scott chose quite the wrong stone, it erodes badly, and major repairs were necessary in the 1880s, 1930s, 1960s and 1990s. A new front by Sir Charles Nicholson replaced Scott's front in 1939, after the new bridge of 1933 had taken most of the traffic from the medieval bridge.

The chantry remained a chapel of ease for St Mary's until the parish was merged with St Andrew's in the 1960s. A redrawing of parish boundaries at the end of 1999 brought the Chantry into the care of the Dean and Chapter of Wakefield Cathedral.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here

Visitors information

  • Bus stop within 100m
  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets nearby
  • Café within 500m
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

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