Monument record MDR5344 - St Helen's Chapel, School and Holy Well (site of), Holywell Street, Chesterfield

Type and Period (4)

  • (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • (Stuart - 1710 AD to 1710 AD)
  • ? (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • (Medieval to Elizabethan - 1066 AD to 1598 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

"There was a chapel dedicated to St. Helen on the site of the present Grammar School [at Chesterfield], of which we have failed to learn anything in pre-reformation days. It is mentioned in a deed of 2 Elizabeth [1559-60,] by which the Queen grants to George Howard, inter alia, 'half an acre of land near the chapel of St. Helen, in Chesterfield.' A free Grammar School, specially endowed by Godfrey Foljambe, was founded at Chesterfield soon after the Reformation, and it seems probable that the Queen granted the fabric of the chapel of St. Helen's for that purpose. At all events, the chapel itself, by whomsoever granted, was turned into a schoolroom, and other buildings for the masters added. But in 1710 the old chapel was finally demolished, and new schools erected." (1) There is evidence to suggest a scholastic presence in Chesterfield as early as the 13th century, with the imminent appointment of a schoolmaster mentioned in a letter to the rector of Chesterfield Church at that time. However, it wasn't until 21 April 1598 that the Grammar School at Chesterfield was fully-established under letters patent of Queen Elizabeth, having been endowed by Godfrey Foljambe in his will of 1594. Further endowments to the school were made in the 17th and 18th centuries but the school later declined and was shut up for some years after 1832. A scheme for re-establishing the school was made in 1843 and a new school built in 1846 [see SMR 3927] in place of the one rebuilt in 1709. (2) Chesterfield Grammar School, being held in St. Helen's Chapel in Holywell Street, was more often called St. Helen's School or the Chapel School than the Grammar School. (3) The present buildings, known as CHESTERFIELD SCHOOL [see SMR 3927], are of 19th century date with no evidence of earlier structures. An inscribed stone in boundary walling at SK 3832 7162 reads 'site of St. Helen's Chapel'. (4) The chapel of the medieval guild of St Helen stood in this area, the cult of St Helen being commonly found in towns with Roman associations. Although the guild itself is not known to have continued beyond the end of the 14th century, the chapel survived into the 16th century, possibly serving as a small chantry chapel. Upon the establishment of a free grammar school under letters patent of Queen Elizabeth in April 1598, the old chapel was adapted for use as a school. The building was demolished in 1710 and a new school built. The school later declined and was shut for some years after 1832. It was re-established in 1843 and a new school was built in 1846 [see SMR 3927] to the north of the old building of 1710, which was demolished. In the second half of the 19th century the site formed part of the playground of the later school. The chapel school cannot be distinguished on Senior’s plan of 1637 from other buildings shown along the eastern side of the road. Potter’s plan of Chesterfield shows a well at the north-western boundary of the schoolyard, marked as ‘Holy Well’. The existence of a holy well is recorded in 1196, from which Haliwellegate, recorded in the 13th century, takes its name. It is not known whether the identification of the well in the schoolyard as the medieval holy well is correct, but it seems likely, given the known presence of a medieval chapel on the site. (6)

Sources/Archives (6)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Cox, J. 1875. Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire, Vol. I. p 175.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: V.C.H. Derby, vol. 2, 1907, pp. 223-6. (A. F. Leach)..
  • <3> Article in serial: Godfrey, W. 1940. 'Some Derbyshire grammar school masters', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 61, pp 38-40.
  • <4> Personal Observation: F1 WW 12-APR-60.
  • <5> Index: NDAT. 0708. 0708.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Stroud, G. 2002. Extensive Urban Survey: Chesterfield. Archaeological Assessment Report.. p 35, Component 25.



Grid reference Centred SK 3833 7163 (38m by 34m) (Centred on)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

  • EDR1017

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Record last edited

Jul 27 2017 4:11PM

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