The Chantry Chapel, Buckingham

A black and white archive image of Chantry Chapel, Buckingham

This fifteenth-century chapel was restored by Gilbert Scott in 1875 and is now open to the public as as a second-hand bookshop. As the oldest building in Buckingham, when we decided to make some internal alterations, we needed to carry out a detailed archaeological survey first.

Why do we need an archaeological assessment?

The history of the Chantry Chapel can be read in Paul Poornan's book: 'The Royal Latin School, Buckingham'. But when we needed more information about the structure of the building so we could make alterations to the interior we knew it was time to carry out an archaeological assessment.
Northamptonshire Archaeology made a photographic record of The Chapel inside and out, created a plan and investigated the development, alteration and restoration of the building.

Historical background

  • Late twelfth century - St John’s hospital for the poor and infirm was built by William Frechet. Some time later it fell into disuse
  • Late thirteenth century - The hospital was restored by Matthew Stratton, the Archdeacon of Buckingham
  • The Archdeacon later granted the building to the Master of the House of St Thomas of Acon (Thomas à Becket), who converted it into a chantry and chapel
  • 1423 - The building was first used as a school around now
  • 1460s - The building was in ruins again
  • 1471 - The building was rebuilt
  • 1776 - The nearby parish church collapsed and the school was temporarily relocated so services could be held in the chapel. Much of the timber from the church may have been used to re-roof the chapel. Some time later, an extra floor was added to create an upper and lower storey, although this was later removed
  • Mid-nineteenth century - The building was again in urgent need of repairs. A plaque dated 1879 states that the 'schoolroom was restored by public subscription'. This included the insertion of three new windows and a new bell-turret to house the re-cast bell
  • Today - The chapel now houses a second-hand bookshop. The ancient, and much altered, interior is open to the public

Details of the building

  • Originally, an altar would have stood before the south window. But no internal features are now visible due to the plaster covering
  • The building still contains the cupboard, or aumbry, for storing the sacred vessels and books
  • There is also a niche or piscine in the wall where the priest washed his hands and the chalice
  • The roof is a medieval and nineteenth-century mix with a (probably) twentieth-century tile covering
  • The floor is entirely modern
  • Remains of two blocked, early windows can be found in the west wall stonework. One is adjacent to the door, and the other is above it. The blockings almost certainly took place in the 1870s when all the windows were restored and new ones added
  • Putlog holes (for scaffolding) from previous building or renovation works can be seen
  • The west wall exterior can be seen in figure five, and there is evidence of blocked windows, re-set stonework and putlog holes
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