The Chantry Chapels of



The Chantry of St John the Baptist

The Chantry Chapel of St. John the Baptist was founded towards the close of the thirteenth century by pious parishioners to provide a priest to say mass and to pray for the souls of the founders. The chapel was erected on the road from Wakefield to Leeds and was dedicated to St John the Baptist. who in medieval popularity surpassed all the Appostles and Evangelists except St Peter and St Andrew. The chapel stood on the east side of the road from Wakefield to Leeds about 300 yards from the bar which was the entrance into the town and stood close to Haselden Hall, the home of the Haselden family and afterwards the Peck's. The lodge of the Wakefield Grammar School (Queen Elizabeth Grammer School) is built on the site of this chapel and according to Walker is proven by written quotations.

Roger Dodsworth who visited Wakefield in January 1618 stated "Att a place in Wakefield called Northgate Head stood St John Chappel, now translated into a Laythe, on the south side whereof ther is a hollow place yett extant in the wall wher an anchoret lived"

The Rev. John Garlick, Usher at the Wakefield Grammar School, 1740-1751 writes "St John's Church stood where Lord Stafford's barn now is ; many human bones being found when it was built, and the adjoining field is named from it. The Font stone of St John's Church lies at Skurrey's door in Northgate. The Pinnacles of the church were found at the building of Lord Stafford's barn"

The Rev. Benjamin Forster, Camden Lecturer at the Parish Church from 1766 to 1772 wrote to his friend Richard Gough FSA in 1766 and said " The old church of St John at Wakefeld who died with in these fifteen years was baptized, stood where is now a large brick barn which we past by in coming from Leeds, on our left hand, just before we entered the town ".

This barn was built by Lord Strafford in 1637-8 at a cost of £76. 11s. 0d the bricks being supplied at 4s. 6d per thousand. The Wakefield property of the Earl of Strafford was sold in 1814 and was described as "a capital plot of garden ground, planted with fruit trees containing 2 a, 1r, 12 p, in St John's field adjoining the Leeds Road with a barn, stable, farm yard situate on the south side of Eastmoor Lane, from which is is separated by Lots 42-46" In the sale plan the barn is shown close to the road, exactly on the site of the present Grammar School Lodge. It was purchased by Mr Foster for £780. When the ground was opened for the foundations of the Lodge several gravestones and human bones were found. Mr George Wentworth of Woolley Park wrote a paper that was read before the British Archaeological Association in June 1864 " The foundations of a large building were dug up near the Proprietary (now the Grammar school)" In 1909 when the science block at the school was erected an ancient well was found near where the chaplain's house stood east of the chapel.

Wakefield Grammar School Lodge            (carol sklinar 2003)

The original endowment was increased in 1435 by John Lake of Wakefield and Katherine his wife, who gave lands at Alverthorpe and Stanley for this purpose,which, upon payment of 100 marks' consideration, were conveyed to him and to Oliver Furbyshour, chaplain of the Chantry Chapel of St Mary upon Wakefield bridge, by Oliver of Cateby, Agnes his wife, and Alice Berlawe of Wakefield, daughters and doheiresses of John Berlawe of Wakefield.

John de Thorp of Wakefield gave by deed one acre of arable land abutting on Park croft to John de Holme and Oliver Couper, chaplains, and their successors on August 6 1418; and by her will, dated 12 April 1420, Joan de Thorp, his widow, after certain bequest to the parish church, left the residue of her property to Oliver Couper, chaplain. "for the dispensation and disposal of my aforesaid propertyás he shall see to be most profitable for the health of my soul, and that of John my late husband, as the aforesaid Oliver wishes to answer us when called before the great Judge at the day of judgement". On January 9 1427-8 Oliver Couper surrendered 7 acres 1 rood of land in Ouchthorpe, Stanley to John Lake. Probably these lands were those included in John Lake's endowment and for which he got the credit in the Commissioners' report of 1546.

John Lake died in July 1438, only three years after making this befefaction to St Johns Chapel, and by his will, proved 16 September of that year, he gave his best horse with harness for his mortuary ; tp his four daughters his paternal bedidiction , also £80, viz., £20 each towards their marriage if with the consent of their mother ; all his goods moveable and immoreable to Katherine his wife,whom he appointed with his son John as his executors. The witnesses to the will were Sir John Sayvill, knight, John Sayvill, John Banastre, John Wentworth, John Amyas, esquires, Oliver Furbyshour, Chaplain of St Mary's Chapel on the Bridge and Thomas Beaumont.

Oliver Furbyshour lived until June 1455, and on his death showed by his testamentary bequest of 6s. 8d. to the church of st John the Baptist his interest in this foundation.

When the Commissioners of 1546 made their returns of the chantries the original founders were frequently unknown and a later benefactor was often described as the founder. It was doubtless for this reason that John Lake was given the credit for being the founder when the Commissioners stated that the Chapel of St John the Baptist was "of the foudacion of John Lake" although in reality it had been in existence at least two hundred and fifty years before his time.

Of the form or size of this chapel when first builst we have no indication but in the year 1315 it became necessary to enlarge the building, and this was done on an extensive scale in order to accommodate the worshippers from the parish church during the rebuilding of the latter, thus bearing out Leland's tradition that this "Chapelle of ease was ons the old Paroch Chirch" . It was decided by the parish to increase the size of the chapel at each end. A lengtheniong of the chancel by 20 feet internally was necessary for the accommodation of various chantry-priests who served at the alters in the old parish church, and to meet the requirements of the advanced ritual which came into fashion at this period. Ten feet was added to the west end for the reception of the larger congregation and on which to build a campanile, so that the bells within might summon parisioners to the services. Master Robert Carpenter, Thomas the son of Laurence, and John Swerd, men whose names frequently occur in the Manor Court Rolls as of local importance, and who may have been churchwardens of the ruined parish church, entered into a contract on March 20 13165 with John de Wragby, mason of Wakefield, to carry out the alterations and additions to St Johns Chapel, and stipulated that the new bell-tower built over the west end should be 20 feet in height above the west window. It was agreed that the whole of the new walling shoule be of stone, that the roof should be covered with grey slates, and that all the windows be glazed with new glass. John de Wragby pledged himself to carry out all the work well, and to the satisfaction of his employers for the sum of £22.

It is evident that building operations were pushed on rapidly, for by September 4th of that year the work was so far advanced that the treasurers of the building fun, Henry de Walda and William de Lokewode, paid the contractor £17. 5s. on account. The work must then have been near completion for Wragby undertook to have the chapel ready so that it might be re-opened with great ceremony on the reast of St Michael. The builder fulfilled his promise, and was then paid the balace of his account.

In the new campanile were hung two bells, and within the chapel was placed a font. Were these bells two that came from the fallen tower, and was the font the old Norman one from the parish church, removed for use to the tempory church?

The enlarged chapel was now called St John's Kyrke or church in contemporary documents. In the will of Oliver Furbyshour,chaplain at St Mary's Chapel on the Bridge it is described as "the Church of St John the Baptist", as also in the will of Richard de Burghbryg dated August 18 1398 by which he left to the frabric of the Church of st John the Baptst of Wakefield 3s. 4d. To it was attached a cemetery, an adjunct not usual to a simple chantry chapel. In 1453 Thomas Turton was brought before the manor court charged with obstructing the road on the north side of the cemetery of Seynt John Kirk, and was ordered to be arrested. At various times gravestones and human remains have been found in this area. A gravestone bearing the following inscription was found when the White Barn, built on the site of St Johns Chapel, was demolished in 1850. "Here Lyeth the body of Joseph Armitage of Wakefield, who died the 17th day of March 1690, aged 33", from which it would appear that some burials took place there more than a century after the chapel was closed as a place of worship.

Thus, after its enlargement, this chapel obtained the status of a chapel of ease. The rite of baptism took place within its walls, and even up to the middle of the eighteenth century the font remained in Northgate ; in its attached cemetery the dead were buried. Doubtless marriages were solemnized there during the period at which it was used as the parish church.

Another distinction of this chapel was that it became the residence of an Anchorite who did not live within the walls, but in a cell in the south wall of the chapel, which was still in existence in 1618 when Roger Dodsworth waw it. Anchorites were chantry priests who had a vow never during life to leave the building in which they officiated. They often had a cell built communicating with the chantry-chapel, and in this circumscribed space their entire day and night was spent. Sometimes a small window or grated opening was made in the cell wall communicating with the churchyard that the townsmen might confer with them, also an aperture to the interior of the chapel, giving the anchorite a view of the alter. Although the terms anchorite or anker and hermit are often used interchangeably, there was, strictly speaking, a difference between the two. A hermit, while living a solitary life comestically, wandered anywhere, mixing freely with the peoplem but an anchorite was immured within a cell which he never afterwards left, and ended his career by being buried beneath the floor of his cell. The austere lives of these people, for they were of both sexes, and their reputation for sanctity, caused their prayers to be much valued, and consequently large numbers of bequest to them found in wills.

In 1393 Thomas Manyngham of Newland left in his will 6s. 8d. to the anchoret of Wakefield. In 1401 Richard Bate, tanner of Wakefield, left to the anchorete of that town 8d. John Tutill of York bequeathed 6s. 8d. to the anchoret of St John of Wakefield, 25 September 1402. John Thorp, mercer of Wakefield, left 2s. to the anchoret of the Chapel of St John the Baptist in 1408, and his widow, Joan in 1420 bequeathed to the Light of St John the Baptist 2s. William Mason of Wakefield, left 6s. to the anchoret at Wakefield in 1436. Sometimes we find the place of the male anchoret taken by a lady ancres (as she is described), who in solitude inhabited this cell and by her piety won the benefactions of the well disposed.

In 1397 John Woderove of Normanton and Woolley bequeathed 20 shillings to the Anchorisse of Wakefield. Richard Burghbryg in 1398 left 3s. 4d. to the anchorite next to the Chapel of St John the Baptist. Robert Besyngham in 1430 left to the anchorite of Wakeifeld 12d. Thomas Hudyswell, mercer of Wakefield, left "to my lady Ankcores 12d." Ann Dymond left 2s. "to the ankerys of St John" in 1505. Richard Peck of Haselden Hall, Wakefield who died June 24 1516 left "3s. 4d. to the ancres of Saynt Johns, for hir prayer" and Walter Bradford of Houghton near Pontefract, by his will proved January 17 1530 gave "to the ancres of Wakefield a quarter of malt".

To the chapel itself benefactions also came, Richard Peck, the same who left money to the anchoret, willed that "if they make an ymege to Saynt Nicholesse in the parish church, then I assigne therto iijs. iiijd., and requier them to gyve the old to Saynt John Kirke. Allso I bequeth to the gilding of Saynt John, now new made in the Kyrke of Saynt John in Wakefield, vjs. viijd."

To this chapel an house of Friars was designed to be attached in the sixteenth century, but the intention was never fulfilled, though Thomas Ryther of Ryther near Tadcaster, esquire, by his will dated 1 July 1527, ordered his executors "to geve xxli. to the edifyeg and foundding of on place of Freres Observauntes in Sancte John Churche in Wakefield ; and, if none hereafter to edified there, then to bestowe the said xxli. for the health of my sall."

The chapel is also mentioned in the will of John Arnald, of Wakefield Outwood, proved 4 Oct., 1543 : "Also I bequeath ijs that shalbe taken of the thirde parte of my goodes towarde the amendinge of the high waye betwixte the crose towardes Sancte John is Churche unto Mr Bonney plaice".

Margaret Betty, widow, pf Wakefield bequeatjed "one towell to Sancte Johne Church" by her will proved 21 July 1544

Richard Snydall was the chaplain in 1534.

Under the Act for the dissolution of chantries, the commissioners report with regard to St John's Chapel that George Leigh was the incumbent, that is was of the foundation fo John Lake, that the goods were worth 10s. 2d., and the place, of parce-gilt weighing 16ounces, 68 s. The rentals of the chantry lands in Ouchthorp and Alverthorpe were worth 35s. a year ; that there was payable to the King for tenths 3s. 6d., to the grave of bailiff of Stanley for the lands in Ouchthorpe 3s. 1d. and to the grave or bailiff of Alverthorpe 13d. due to the lord of the manor of Wakefield for lands there. So that there only remained from these sources 27s. 2d. for the incumbent.

In due course the chantry wa sdissolved, but Sir Walter Mildmay and Robert Kelway, the Commissioners appointed under the Great Seal, dated 20 June 1548, to grant pensions to the chantry chaplains, with instructions that every priest was to have the profit of his chantry for his natural life unless promoted to some other benifice or curacy, did not assign any special pension to George Leigh, but when the chantry lands were sold a proviso was made that the rents were to be paid to him for his life.

The chantry lands were ordered to be handed over to John Cotton on behalf of the Crown, 2 April 1549, and at a Manor Court held 3 May of the same year Sir Thomas Gargrave and Thomas Darley surrendered the copyhold lands to the use of John Cotton, also the whole of the late Chapel of St John in Wakefield, with the ground on which it stands, also one small cottage (the chaplain's house) belonging to and adjacent to the chapel, also the whole burial ground of the same chapel, and the two bells pertaining to and belonging to the said chapel, also a tenement with parcels of pasture land in Ouchthorp, late in the tenure of Richard Pek, together with two acres in Alverthorpe, late belonging to the Chapel of St John in the parish of Wakefield, but the annual rents were to be given to George Leigh, late the incumbent of the said chapel, for his life.

The two bells were placed in the custody of Leonard Bate, of Lupset, Collector of the Revenues of the Chantry Lands,

On 28 Marcy Sir Edward Warnerm of the King's Household, Silvester Leigh of Pontefract, and Leonard Bate of Lupset, applied for, among other property, " The Chapel of St John, built of raggestone with two little bells in the roof weighing 4cwt., a cottage adjoining the same and a garden containing 1 rood of land of the value of 6s. 8d., the whole valued at 73s. 4d.

On 17 June this property was granted to them, along with other lands of total value of £2,247. 14s. 6d.

St John's Chapel next came into the possession of Henry Savile of Lupset, Surveyor of the Crown for the Northern Provinces, who obtained large quantities of chantry lands, and ultimately to George Savile, son of Thomas Savile, of Stanley, who purchased Haselden Hall, Northgate from Richard Peck, 7 November 1572.

The chapel was then converted into a dwelling-house, for in a survey of the lands of John Savile, of Haselden Hall, taken on his death in 1629, it was found that he held, "a capital messuage " called "le Upperhall alias St John's Church," with court, garden, croft etc., belonging thereto in Northgate beyond "le Barrs" in the occupation of Francis Taylor and John Sunderland. Nathaniel Johnson, writing to Ralph Thoresby, says "St John's Chapel is now in the occupation of Major Savile at Northgate Head. " In 1653, on the death of William Savile, of Haselden Hall, who, though twice married, died childless, his estates including this chapel, passed to Sir William Wentworth, son of Sir William Wentworth, of Ashby Puerorum, who had married Elizabeth, daughter and coheir of Thomas Savile, of Haselen Hall. The chapel was then converted into a laythe, but for long bore the appelation " St John's Church." In 1556, at the Burges Court, the "equeste founde that Nicholas Fyshburne (clothier of Wakefield, whose will was proved July 16 1562) and Oles Sagar clerke shall leave a sufficiente hye way for carte wayne and other cariage at all tymes in the yere as hath bene used afore tyme oute of mynde from the straye land ende to Seynte John churche to ye hye strete to the house of Nicholas Tempest esquyer late Richard Turton's and so to the hie strete of Northgate through ye same folde from sonne ryse to the sonne sett in payne of every tyme of anay of theym so stoppynge the sayde waye xls. at a tyme. Wednesday next after the feast of Saynte Michaell".

Again in 1625, 4 May, at the Rectory Manor Court of Lady Elizabety Savile, the Homage ordered "that ffrancis Taylor and others occuiers of the landes from St Johns Kirk unto St Johns feild shall p'mitt and suffer the Layde of this Mannor, and other her tenn'ts of the P'sonage house to have way wth wayne, cart & carriages for coales and other necessaries from the heigh street leading towardes Northgate unto the P'sage house, as usuallye they ahve had heretofore, upon payne of not soe doinge, and everie one stoppinge of the same, xxs "

In the descriptio of Lord Strafford's lands in St John's Field is a "rood of land lying at St John's Church"

The barn, know as the White Barn, was evidently a prominent object to travellers entering the town from Leeds, and was the first building on the immediate outskirt of the town which would meet the eye. On November 12 1810, a Mr Harper fitted and use the White Barn as a theatre, closingit on December 28 following. The barn was still standing when the ground was purchased by the Govenors of the Wakefield Priprietary School in 1830 ; it was then demolished, and a new entrance lodge erected on this site ; thus the last vestige of this thirteenth-century chapel disappeared.


In may 1756, in the false roof of Drury's house, in the swine-market, at the bottom of Northgate (once the residence of the Chantry Priest), Thomas Binns, about to make some repairs, found twenty-five figures of wood and alabaster, richly ornamented with gold and vermillion.  These figures were about twelve inches in height, with the exception of a large image of St Ann teaching the young Virgin to read which was three feet in height ; other figures represented Moses and Aaron, Kings David and Solomon, our Blessed Saviour in the posture of preaching, over His Head two cherubim issuing out of two clouds,one with a syrinx upon his breast, the other holding dice disposed in a triangle to represent Destiny; on each side of the cherubim two figures, Zachariah and Simeon, singing ; the twelve Apostles, each with his proper emblem, suround the Saviour ; St Paul and St John the baptist are below ; at the feet of Jesus are the three Magi ; a figure in alabaster, St William, Archbishop of York, with his pastoral staff and mitre, in his right hand raised in blessing a monk kneeling at his feet, and the legend written on a label proceedeing from his mouth "S William sanc price procures aydane" in old French (St William you procure us help without meed or reward), enclosed in a cabinet with folding doors, A mitred figure, possibly St Cuthbert or St John of Beverley ; St John the Evangalest represented as undergoing martyrdom in a cauldron of boiling water with Saints Polycarp and Ignatius standing by with the Roman magistrate and the executioners. Another group of figures, also in alabaster alto-relieve, portrays the martyrdom of a bishop, who lied naked and extended, his head resting on his mitre to denote his office, and his hands and feet bound to an engine consisting of four posts, braced with two other horizontal pieces, in form of a windlass. Over the martyr stands the executioner with a knife in his right hand, and from the incision in the body the bowels are being twisted out and coiled upon the beam of the windlass by another executioner. Behind the executioners stands the chief magistrate ; behind him are two attendants, one of whom holds a scroll inscribed with characters now illegible. This group consisted of no less than fifteen figures.

It is possible that these figures were removed from the parish church and secreted in this roof when the order was made to remove all images and objects of supersition from places of worship, and there they remained concealed for over two hundred years. One George Bucktrout, a grocer, who had been churchwarden in 1730 and again in 1742, and lived in a house adjoining the churchyard, purchased them and exhibited them in London and then at fairs all over the country.



extracted from Walkers History of Wakefield



Please take a moment to sign the guestbook / thank you


L10 Web Stats Reporter 3.15 L10 Hit Counter - Free Web Counters
Wakefield Family History Sharing