A day at Killerton isn't complete without a visit to Killerton's chapel. The grounds of the chapel are a quiet place to seek comfort and reflect.
Designing the chapel
In 1841, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland commissioned architect C.R.Cockrell to design the chapel you see today, as the chapel used previously at Columb John was inconveniently distant in poor weather.
C.R.Cockrell was renowned for his classical style, but reluctantly agreed to copy the Norman chapel of St Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury. Cockrell and Sir Acland bickered often about the design and the construction.
The interior of the chapel is unusual for an English church, as serried ranks of seating face each other across the aisle rather than facing the altar. The congregation could all see each other; the Aclands, their guests, their senior servants, their lower servants, their estate workers and tenants.
The chapel and estate life
The Aclands were a religious family who took their duties as role models very seriously.To Sir Thomas, attending church was a public act of ‘witness’, and he had a seat for himself to underline his central role as benign patriarch, with everyone expected to know their place in the social hierarchy.
However, he could also be unorthodox. He invited the anti-slavery campaigner Samuel Crowther to the chapel, who afterwards became the first black bishop.
Sir Charles Dyke Acland, who inherited the chapel in 1898, read the lesson in chapel every Sunday, and shook the hands of his farm tenants after the service. If they did not attend one Sunday, a groom would be sent to their house on Monday morning, and requested to explain their absence face-to-face with Sir Charles. What may have been a brisk conversation was softened by a glass of whisky. Even in the 1960s, the chapel bell still rung out to call the men to work every morning.