Visit Gibside Chapel

The interior of the chapel

Framed by trees at the end of the half mile-long Avenue and designed as a mausoleum by renowned Palladian architect James Paine, the Chapel forms the centerpiece of Bowes’ Georgian landscape garden.

Work began on the Chapel in 1760, a few months before George Bowes died and is one of the most memorable architectural vistas in the wider region. 

His second wife, Mary, completed the exterior in 1769 but it wasn’t until the early 19th century that final touches to the interior were finished. The building has been in almost continual use since.

Though not immediately obvious, the Chapel’s layout is a Greek cross within a square. Inside, apart from the unusual three-tiered pulpit and centrally positioned altar, many are struck by its simplicity.

See how sermons were conducted on the three-tier pulpit
Family inside the chapel
See how sermons were conducted on the three-tier pulpit

Before the National Trust took care of the Chapel in 1965 (which sparked the restoration of the rest of Gibside), estate tenants secured its survival by ensuring services continued – and therefore the upkeep of the building – long after the Bowes-Lyons had left the estate.

Built of the same locally-sourced creamy sandstone found in buildings elsewhere at Gibside, the carving within the columned portico, of the swags on the dome, and the row of funeral urns surmounting the balustrade are worth looking at.

How was it used?

Sermons were delivered from the top of the pulpit with readings given from the middle, and a clerk sitting below.  

Of course, the congregation were traditionally seated according to their role and status on the estate. Naturally with the family box reserved for the Bowes-Lyons (underfloor heating made this area particularly comfortable).

The dome features a hole, where it's possible that a candelabra may have been lowered and raised using a pulley.

Today, a traditional Anglican service still takes place every Sunday, 3-4pm.