Once a common site, the bridge Chapel on the beautiful nine-arched medieval chantry bridge in Wakefield is one of the last remaining bridge Chapels in England.
A Little About Wakefield
"a very quick market town and meately large; well served of fish and flesh both from sea and by rivers...so that all vitaile is very good and chepe there. A Right honest man shall fare well for 2d. a meal...There by plenti of se coal in the quarters about Wakefield." John Leland 1538
The Chantry Chapel of St Mary the Virgin
One of only four surviving bridge chapels in England, it was built in the mid 14th century and was orginally one of four medieval chapels situated on the roads into Wakefield.
|Wakefield Chantry Chapel from the Bridge|
During the middle ages, chapels on bridges were fairly common and were used by travellers, who often had dangerous and difficult journeys, to offer prayers of thanks before entering a city, or prayers for safety before leaving. Of the four remaining in England, Wakefield is the oldest and most elaborate (the others are at: Bradford-on-Avon, St Ives (Cambridgeshire) and Rotherham. There are also bridge chapels at Derby and Rochester, but these are located on the riverbanks, and are not a structural part of the bridge.
|Chapel by William Henry Toms 1743 Wikimedia Commons|
All of the other chapels of Wakefield were closed in the mid 16th century during the Reformation and Abolition of Chantries Acts, but this one survived as it was a structural part of the bridge. Since then it has been used as a warehouse, a library, an office and a cheese shop.
|Wakefield Chantry Chapel - the ornate tower|
It has been looked after by the Friends of Wakefield Chantry Chapel since 1990 and services are held at 4.30pm on the first and third Sundays of each month.
There are also open days on public holiday weekends and group visits can be arranged by appointment at other times.
|Wakefield Chantry Chapel and medieval Bridge|
Unfortunately the Chapel was not open when we visited, so we were unable to get any internal shots, but we hope to return and remedy this, as the inside looks beautiful. More information and useful links may be found at the bottom of this article.
The Chapel is easy to find but it can be tricky to negotiate the traffic system of the 'newer' A638 bridge over the river, and find parking nearby. Just over the new bridge, and on the other side of the river, is the modern Hepworth Gallery, which is also well worth a visit.
Thanks for reading!
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