The Chantry

Chantry Chapel Location

A History of Chantry Chapel

The Chantry Chapel of St Mary the Virgin was built by the townspeople of Wakefield in the mid-14th century as an integral part of Wakefield’s new stone bridge (which replaced earlier wooden bridges) across the River Calder, first being licensed back in 1356.

The Chantry is one of just three surviving bridge chantries in the whole country and it’s original purpose was to provide a place for priests to say mass for souls of the dead to reduce their time in purgatory.

By the turn of the millennium and following a redrawing of parish boundaries, the Chantry was brought into the care of the Dean and Chapter of Wakefield Cathedral.

A timeline of Chantry Chapel:

  • 1300’s

    Work begins on constructing the chapel on the new stone bridge crossing the River Calder.

  • 1356

    Chantry Chapel was first licensed.

  • Mid-1500’s

    The chantry is closed as a mass-house on the ‘Dissolution of the Chantries’ (as part of the Protestant Reformation).

  • Mid-1500’s

    The chantry was purchased by the Savile family and later given to the Trustees of the Wakefield Poor (now the Governors of the Wakefield Charities).

  • 1600’s-1800’s

    For three centuries the chantry was used for mainly secular purposes including as a cheesecake shop, a corn merchant’s office, a newsroom and a tailors. In the late 18th century the chantry was leased by the West Riding Magistrates (the body responsible for maintaining bridges) so they could keep it in good condition to avoid any bridge weakening. During this time the bridge was widened from 10ft to 30ft wide.

  • 1840's

    The chantry is restored to the church when the Oxford Movement quickened interest in medieval buildings and the building began restoration work, overseen by Yorkshire Architectural Society and designed by George Gilbert Scott who played a major role in the development of the cathedral around this time too.

  • 1848

    The chantry reopened for congregational worship for the first time in almost 300 years and was used for six years until a new church was built as the parish church of the new parish of St Mary.

  • 1856

    The chantry became a chapel of ease for the newly formed St Mary’s parish, with St Mary’s church taking over as the parish church

  • 1880’s

    Unfortunately, unlike the prolific work carried out at the cathedral, Scott chose the wrong stone for the work at the chantry and major repairs were needed to avoid collapsing into the river due to erosion (with further work also needed in the 1930’s, 1960’s and 1990’s).

  • 1933

    Work is completed on upgrading Chantry Bridge.

  • 1939

    A new front for the chapel by Sir Charles Nicholson replaces Scott’s front.

  • 1960's

    Following the merging of St Mary’s parish and St Andrew’s Parish, the chantry came under the care of St Andrew’s PCC. Throughout the 130 or so years which the chantry was under the care of these churches it was always seen as a burden because of the need for frequent repairs and need for hard-pressed clergy to maintain services.

  • 1990

    The Friends of the Chantry Chapel were formed to raise funds for the repair and maintenance of the building.

  • 1990’s

    Vandals destroy the chantry’s original font (which at the time was displayed at Kettlethorpe Hall).

  • 1990's

    The Friends of Chantry Chaple raised £100,000, paying for full repairs or replacement of the stonework, a new lead covering for the roof and a new lighting and heating system.

  • 2000

    At the end of 1999, a redrawing of the parish boundaries brought the chantry into the care of the Dean and Chapter of Wakefield Cathedral.

  • Present Day

    Chantry Chapel continues to be used for Sunday worship and is often open for exhibitions, talks and other events.

Visiting opportunities

Chantry Chapel is open for the following services each month, all welcome:

First Sunday of the month – Chantry Communion, 16:30 – 17:15

Third Sunday of the month – Chantry Prayers, 16:30 – 17:15

The Chantry also hosts a number of events throughout the year – for further information visit the Friends of Chantry Chapel website or Facebook page.

Forthcoming Open Days:

The Chantry Chapel will be open every Saturday up to and including Saturday 2 September 2023. Opening times are 11:00-13:00.

More dates to follow…

The Friends of Chantry Chapel

The chantry is part-cared-for by a fantastic support group – The Friends of Chantry Chapel – who contribute to the upkeep, repair and maintenance of the chapel, hosting events and taking part in fundraising and awareness raising initiatives.

The annual subscription to join the group is £10, with members receiving:

  • Quarterly newsletters featuring the latest news from the chapel
  • Opportunities to engage with chantry activities
  • Be kept up-to-date on all the latest events at Chantry Chapel
  • Know you are supporting the future of one of Wakefield’s most iconic buildings.

To find out more or for further information please email Ann Kendall, Friends Secretary or visit the Friends of Chantry Chapel website.

Did you know...

The Chantry is one of just three surviving bridge chantries in the whole country with others located in Rotherham (South Yorkshire) and St Ives (near Cambridge).

Keep up to date

Be the first to know about the latest news and events.

Wakefield Cathedral

Cathedral Centre
8-10 Westmorland St
View on Map

01924 373923