The Chantry Chapels of



The Chantry Chapels of St Swithens

This chapel was situated in a amphitheatre of what must once have been beautiful country, with the river Calder winding in the distance, a solitude, and yet within a mile of Wakefield parish church.

St Swithin's chapel was near the old road leading from Lingwell Gate to the ferry across the river Calder at Kirkthorpe, on the outskirt of the Old Park of Wakefield, which belonged to the Earls Warenne, near to Clarke Hall.

The chapel was a substantial building of dressed stone, 45 feet in length and 21 in breadth, roofed with stone shingles, as determined by Mr Haldane when he excavated the site some years ago.

John, 7th Earl Warenne, was the founder of St Swithins's Chapel, at Stanley, in order that a priest should say mass and divine service in time of plague for the sick to resort to, that the rest of the parisioners might attend their parush church without fear of infection. He endowed it with a rent-charge of 40s., to be paid out of the revenues of his manor of Wakefield, with other lands of the yearly value of 50s. 4d., the net stipend being £4. 10s. 2d., and this sum continued to be received by the chaplain until the time of the dissolution of chantry chapels.

The earliest reference to this chapel occur in two deed whereby William Coley of Wakefield give to Henry son of Robert of Wakefield a parcel of land at Wodewell bordering on the road which leads to the Chapel of St Swithin. To both these deeds Sir Thomas Coke, steward of the manor of Wakefield in 1284, is the witness. In the same year at a Court held on December 13, Brother Richard of St Swythin must satisfy John son of William and his wife for defamation. Again on 1 January 1297, John son of John de Saint Swythin complains of William son of Thomas de Spen for trespass. In 1328 the twelve jurors at the sheriff's tourn were fined for concealing insults offered at the Chapel of St Swithin's, Stanley.

In 1355 there is a memorandum that St Swithin's hermitage, with a garden and two crofts which have been occupied for some time past by one John de Ledes, canon of the priory of Dras, now stands empty without a hermit, the said John having been recalled to his house by his prior, and is now let to Richard Bultere, clerk, until the said hermitage should be agin occupied.

From this we learn that in addition fo the chantry-priest there was a hermit living at or near the chapel, as was also the case at the Chapel of St John the Baptist. It may have been the hermit of this chapel to whom in 1401, Richard Bate, tanner, of Wakefield left 2s., "to a certain hermit who has lain in bed continuously for five years".

John de Helmslay, late chaplian to the hermitage of St Swythin in 1389 surrendered an acre of land called Impgrene within the croft of St Swythin in Stanley to th custodians of the girdle of the Blessed Mary in the church of Wakefield in pure and perpetual alms.

In 1393, at Michaelmas, there was no chaplain, consequently the croft belonging to the chapel was in the hands of the lord of the manor, and was let to Henry de Worthyngton for 10s., for one year.

The Earls Warenne, as founders of the chantry and lords of the manor, appointed the chaplains. In 1399 Roger Fauge was appointed chaplain, his duty being to celebrate mass for the lord and his ancestors, and to him was assigned the garden and croft of St Swithin.

Richard Appleyard was the next chantry-priest who name has been handed down to us ; he was succeeded on 23 June 1463 by William Reresby, who was appointed by Thomas Colt and Henry Soothill as executors for Richard, late Duke of York, who fell at the battle of Wakefield. 30 December 1460. On 28 June 1481, William Webster becane chaplain followed on 2 May 1486 by John Clayton, who successor was Thomas Lake, appointed 24 May 1498 by Henry VII as lord of the manor. The last occupant was Thomas Westerman, who surrendered his office in 1548, on the dissolution of the chantry.

Simon Flemyng of Wakefield, by his will dated 31 March 1435, proved in the following January, left the large sum of £6 towards the stipend of a chaplain who should celebrate in the chapel of "Robert my son outside the wood of Wakefield". This Robert was possibly Robert Flemyng of Scharleston who died in July 1453, and the chapel outside the wood certainly applies to St Swithin's Chapel, which was just on the borders of Outwood, in the Old Park of Wakefield.

On 15 May 1524, Robert Nevell of Wakefield, bequeathed his "Chamlett jackett to make a vestyment to Sancte George alter in Wakefield parish church, and (if) it will make ij another to Sancte Swithune's chapel".

When the Valor Ecclesiasticus was compiled Thomas Westerman was the chaplain ; the stipend of £4. 8s. 8d., was made up of 48s. 8d. rents from Stanley and 40s received from the lord of the manor of Wakefield.

The goods belonging to the chapel were valued at 11s. 9d., but there was no plate.

Two years later the Certificate states that the priest was "Thomas Westerman 66 years of age, somewhat learned". He received a pension of £2. 1s. 6d., which he was enjoying in 1553.

The freehold land brought in 6s., the copyhold 44s. 4d., and there was the annual sum of 40s. from the lord of the manor.

Certain of the lands were in the hands of the parisioners to the intent that they should bestow the rents, 24s., upon the highways, and sometimes to pay a priest to pray and celebrate mass for the souls of the donors of these lands.

When the chantry lands were disposed of, Sir thomas Gargrave and Thomas Darley took of the King a house, late the chapel, called Seynt Swithyn's Chapel, hear the Old Park of Wakefield, and three closes lying about the said house containing 8 acres late in the tenure of Thomas Poplewell, and 3 acres in the occupation of Robert Burnell, also a small cottage and croft late belonging to the said chapel of St Swythin.

On 25 October of the same year Gargrave and Darley surrendered all the above property to Henry Savile of Lupset, but with the proviso that Thomas Westerman, the late chaplain, should receive the pension of £2. 1s. 6d., that had been assigned to him out of these lands.

When, in the reign of Queen Mary, Henry Savile, the Crown Surveyor for the jewels, plate, ornaments, goods, lead and bells belonging to the dissolved Yorkshire chantries, presented his statements of accounts to the Commissioners on 28 November 1555, he accounted for two bells belonging to this chapel by stating that they had "been taken into the Chapel of St Mary upon Wakefield bridge, wherin God's service is daily maintained", thus proving that the chapel upon the bridge was reopened for service when Queen Mary ascended the throne upon the death of her brother, Edward VI.

Richard Hill and William James, gent., obtained a grant from Queen Elizabeth on 8 March 1571, of the Chapel of St Swithin in Stanley, that they might pull it down and sell the materials.

From Henry Savile this property passed to Edward Savile, of Stanley or Midgley Hall (as it was often called), son of John Savile, of Stanley, and Elizabeth Cockson of Wakefield. Edward Savile married Katherine, daughter of Alvery Copley of Batley 22 November 1574 and died in 1590, leaving a son John and a daughter, Grace.

John Savile, son of Edward, retained the Stanley property, for on his death, 20 December 1602, the Stanley property was mortgaged by his executors to Thomas Pilkington of Stanley, who in 1603 purchased the property, and in the following year Henry Grice of Wakefield, surrendered 2 closes of land containing 8 acres, called St Swithin's close, hear the Old Park, to thomas Pilkington, esquire, whose descendant, Sir Michael Pilkington of Chevet, bought the adjoining Clarke Hall estate from Samuel Pegge of the Middle Temple.

The whole remained in the possession of the Pilkingtons until 1802, when it was sold to Mr Benjamin Heywood for £23,500, and re-sold in 1853 to Mr William Shaw of Portobello for £52,500, from whose daughter, Mrs Harris Gastrell, Mr H C Haldane bought Clarke Hall and the site of St Swithin's Chapel in 1913, his family having rented it since 1813.

Some gravestone said to have come from this chapel, were used as floor-stones to a cottage adjoining the Stanley road, but have now disappeared. There is a story that some 180 years ago an old Mrs Bennet, of Stanley, passed the site of the chapel late on St Mark's Eve, and affirmed that she saw the apparition of a funeral on its way to the chapel.



This information has been extracted from Walkers History of Wakefield published 1939.



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