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Scheduled Monument: NORTH LEES CHAPEL (1020172)

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Authority English Heritage
Other Ref SM Cat. No. 389
Date assigned Tuesday, December 23, 1997
Date last amended Wednesday, May 9, 2001


REASONS FOR DESIGNATION A medieval chapel is a building, usually rectangular, containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in the pre- Reformation period. Chapels were designed for congregational worship and were generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provided accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which was the main domain of the priest and contained the principal altar. Around 4000 parochial chapels were built between the 12th and 17th centuries as subsidiary places of worship built for the convenience of parishioners who lived at a distance from the main parish church. Other chapels were built as private places of worship by manorial lords and lie near or within manor houses, castles or other high-status residences. Chantry chapels were built and maintained by endowment and were established for the singing of masses for the soul of the founder. Some chapels possessed burial grounds. Unlike parish churches, the majority of which remain in ecclesiastical use, chapels were often abandoned as their communities and supporting finances declined or disappeared. Many chantry chapels disappeared after the dissolution of their supporting communities in the 1540s. Chapels, like parish churches, have always been major features of the landscape. A significant number of surviving examples are identified as being nationally important. The sites of abandoned chapels, where positively identified, are particularly worthy of statutory protection as they were often left largely undisturbed and thus retain important information about the nature and date of their use up to their abandonment. North Lees Chapel is particularly important as the only surviving monument of its type in the Peak District National Park; the remains of Roman Catholic field chapels are rare nationally. If, as seems likely, the chapel dates from the 16th century it would provide a good archaeological record of the period. Despite the chapel being in a ruinous state, all foundation levels survive and much archaeological information may well be preserved beneath the debris from collapsed fabric. DETAILS The monument includes the small, ruined Roman Catholic chapel of North Lees and an area surrounding the chapel ruins containing loose masonry and possible buried archaeological remains. The chapel stands in open fields close to North Lees Hall. It comprises a single rectangular building of 13m by 6.7m. The building stands on sloping ground on an earthen platform, revetted at its western end. The chapel does not follow a strict east-west axis but respects more the contour of the land: its orientation is ENE to WSW. The chapel has been incorporated into the junction of later field boundaries. The east wall of the chapel is the most complete and stands to a maximum height of approximately 3m. It is 6.7m long and is built from large, Millstone Grit blocks of local extraction. There is no trace of surviving mortar. The east wall contains a central opening with a round arch and chamfered jambs, approximately 2m in height and 1.4m in width. The south wall is 13m long and stands to a maximum height of about 1m, although much of it survives as footings only. There appears to have been a buttress near the south east corner of the building which extends for 0.8m to the south at foundation level. The south wall has a light covering of stone debris which extends for approximately 1.5m to the south, except at the south west corner where the debris is more extensive. The west wall survives to a height of approximately 1m for all of its 6.7m length. There is a narrow, central opening of 0.8m width with chamfered jambs which is of similar style to that at the east end. The north wall stands to a maximum height of 1.3m for most of its 13m length but is obscured from the north side by a substantial amount of stone debris which extends to the north for about 6m. All of the walls are 0.85m thick. To the west of the chapel, the level platform extends for a further 3.5m before the land drops steeply away at the revetment. The latter is now covered with a large amount of stone debris for a further 6m or 7m. There appears to have been a wall extending from the south west corner of the building which is now barely visible due to a substantial amount of stone debris covering the area and extending for about 10m to the south west. A map of 1830 shows this to have been a field wall. Another ruinous drystone wall abutts the south east corner of the building which separates two fields to the east. Similarly, a further ruinous wall abutts the north west corner of the chapel which then joins a maintained wall, some 9m to the north west. The arch of the east window was re-erected in c.1850. By 1877 the chapel was partly concealed in a small plantation. Only the west wall was then standing which had a round- headed doorway. A photograph taken around 1968 shows the chapel in similar condition to the present but the east wall slightly less complete, indicating that some restoration work has been carried out again during the last 30 years. The date of the original building on this site is not known. One source claims that the chapel, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was built in 1685 in the reign of James II by the Eyre family and was subsequently destroyed during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. However, this version is disputed by another source which states that from 1591 North Lees had a series of Protestant owners, which would make a 17th century date for the chapel most unlikely. This source states that the chapel may date from the pre-Reformation and was last used by Richard Fenton, the last Catholic owner of the estate in around 1590. Fenton was a persecuted recusant who had retired to North Lees in 1576. It is possible that the 16th century chapel fell into disrepair, although subsequent owners may have used it as a domestic chapel. An inventory of the estate buildings of 1628 did not mention a chapel. The present buildings of North Lees Hall are thought to have been constructed in 1594: the location of the previous buildings is unknown, but may have been closer to the chapel. By the early 19th century, North Lees had become an attraction for visitors interested in `gothic mysteries' and Charlotte Bronte also stayed here in 1845. The setting for the novel Jane Eyre is thought to have been based on North Lees. Excluded from the scheduling are the modern field walls abutting the north west and south east corners of the building, but the ground beneath them is included. SELECTED SOURCES Book Reference - Author: Cox, J C - Title: Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire. Vol 2 - Date: 1877 - Page References: 253 - Type: DESC TEXT Book Reference - Author: Meredith, R - Title: Farms and Families of Hathersage Outseats: Vol 1 - Date: 1983 - Page References: 10-20 - Type: DESC TEXT Book Reference - Author: Smith, B - Title: Padley Hall near Grindleford, Derbyshire. - Date: 1990 - Type: DESC TEXT Article Reference - Author: anon. - Title: Tithe map of Hathersage - Date: 1830 - Type: MAP - Description: as per Derbyshire Record Office

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Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1997. Scheduling Notification: North Lees Chapel. List entry no. 1020172. SM Cat. No. 389.



Grid reference Centred SK 2333 8355 (28m by 31m)
Map sheet SK28SW

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Record last edited

Aug 27 2013 3:58PM

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