Friday, July 12, 2013

A redundant church - Withcote Chapel

For a long time, I've loved wandering into and around churches, especially small ones in out of the way villages.  I'm not religious by any stretch of the imagination. It's the weight of generations of history that attracts me to them, as well as the beauty of carvings, wooden and stone, and the windows - whether stained glass, or plain and airy.

The memorial inscriptions - inside or outside -  tell stories, not always obvious, and some make the observer ask questions.  

Withcote Chapel, near Withcote Hall was a private family chapel, probably begun in the 16th century by Catherine and William Smith, and completed after William's death by Catherine and her second husband,  Roger Ratcliffe.  The Palmer family became lords of the manor, and were linked by marriage to the Johnsons. Monuments to all of these are found in the chapel.

The private chapel took on the function of parish church, possibly because the village lost people after the land was enclosed, and the original parish church fell into disuse.  The chapel acquired a font in the 19th century.  There is a small graveyard.

When we were nearby, walking part of the Leicestershire Round, we called in out of curiosity.  I'd seen the place from a distance on a previous walk, and read a bit about it.  We were lucky to find  two volunteers from the Churches Conservation Trust tidying the place up for a rare service which would be held there.  They were very informative and even offered us a cup of tea. 

The stained glass in some of the windows is thought to be part of the original building, designed by the king's glazier, Galyon Hone, and installed in about 1530.  

One interesting plaque mentions a male Palmer who was "primitively religious".  According to one of the volunteers, this probably meant he was high church, or even Roman Catholic, at a period when this was unwise.

It's a lovely building, and its setting is hidden away and delightful, especially on a fine summer's day.

More information about Withcote Chapel.
More about the Churches Conservation Trust.

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