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History of Buckingham Chantry Chapel

A black and white archive image of Buckingham Chantry Chapel as seen from the road
Archive image of Buckingham Chantry Chapel from the road | © National Trust Images

This medieval chapel is the oldest building in Buckingham. Built in the late 12th century as part of a hospital, converted to a chantry chapel and then a school, discover this little building with a varied history.

Historical background

In the late 12th century, St John’s hospital for the poor and infirm was built by William Frechet. Some time later it fell into disuse. In the late 13th 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.

In around 1423 the building was first used as a school, but by the 1460s the building was in ruin again. It was rebuilt in 1471.

In 1540, the building became the home of the Royal Latin School.

In 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.

By 1781 the building was also being used as Sunday School, said to be only the second such school in the country.

By the mid-19th century, the building was again in urgent need of repairs and was twice restored by public subscription; in 1857 and under the direction of Sir George Gilbert Scott in the 1870s. This included the insertion of three new windows and a new bell-turret to house the re-cast bell.

The National Trust

In 1912, the chapel was bought by public subscription and given to the National Trust. Today, the chapel now houses a second-hand bookshop and the ancient, and much altered, interior is open to the public. Please check the homepage for opening days and times.

Buckingham Chantry Chapel seen from the road
Buckingham Chantry Chapel | © National Trust/Chris Lacey

Historical details to look out for

Originally, an altar would have stood before the south window, but no internal features are now visible due to the plaster covering. The building does still contain the cupboard, or aumbry, for storing the sacred vessels and books. There is also a niche, or piscina, in the wall where the priest washed his hands and the chalice.

The roof is a medieval and 19th-century mix with a (probably) 20th-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 also be seen on the exterior of the building.

Exterior of Buckingham Chantry Chapel showing ornate windows, fencing and bell

Discover more at Buckingham Chantry Chapel

Find out when Buckingham Chantry Chapel is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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