Ancient Monuments

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Medieval chapel called St Helen's Chapel with a dwelling and enclosure at Cape Cornwall

A Scheduled Monument in St. Just, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.1276 / 50°7'39"N

Longitude: -5.7059 / 5°42'21"W

OS Eastings: 135234.151398

OS Northings: 31859.081402

OS Grid: SW352318

Mapcode National: GBR DX9B.TCT

Mapcode Global: VH05F.12W0

Entry Name: Medieval chapel called St Helen's Chapel with a dwelling and enclosure at Cape Cornwall

Scheduled Date: 11 September 1947

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1004512

English Heritage Legacy ID: CO 273

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Just

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Just-in-Penwith

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a medieval chapel with its associated dwelling and enclosure, situated centrally on a rocky promontory known as Cape Cornwall on the far western coast of Cornwall. The chapel survives as a small roofless building measuring 6.1m long by 4.2m wide and standing to eaves height. It is built using a wide variety of construction styles utilising huge rounded boulders; mortared rubble; drystone construction and neat ashlar granite quoins with pointing. The gable wall is topped with a crude cross of coarse granite and to the north eastern corner some slates are still attached to the tops of the eaves. There is some rubble within the interior. The two windows in the west wall and a doorway to the south west are all square headed. To the south and west of the chapel is a level platform, thought to represent an associated dwelling which is largely preserved as buried features and deposits. Surrounding the dwelling, and attached to the chapel, is an enclosure defined by a stone and earth bank which measures up to 17m long by 9m wide and connects to the chapel walls. Descriptions of the building and its associated structures have varied widely over time. Borlase described a chapel with a pretty eastern window over the altar and the remains of a religious house to the west within a circular yard. In 1896 Langdon reported that a small Latin gable cross bearing the Chi-Rho symbol was taken from the chapel to St Just church and later thrown down the well in the Vicarage garden. From the existing drawings this cross appeared to be of 5th century date. The enclosure currently seems to be more rectangular than that described by Borlase, and no trace of the dwelling other than the raised platform exists. Buller in 1842 suggested there was once a holy well but no trace of this remains.

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-421576

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A medieval chapel is a building, usually rectangular, containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in the pre- Reformation period. Chapels were designed for congregational worship and were generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provided accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which was the main domain of the priest and contained the principal altar. Around 4000 parochial chapels were built between the 12th and 17th centuries as subsidiary places of worship built for the convenience of parishioners who lived at a distance from the main parish church. Other chapels were built as private places of worship by manorial lords and lie near or within manor houses, castles or other high-status residences. Chantry chapels were built and maintained by endowment and were established for the singing of masses for the soul of the founder. Some chapels possessed burial grounds. Unlike parish churches, the majority of which remain in ecclesiastical use, chapels were often abandoned as their communities and supporting finances declined or disappeared. Many chantry chapels disappeared after the dissolution of their supporting communities in the 1540s. Chapels, like parish churches, have always been major features of the landscape. A significant number of surviving examples are identified as being nationally important. The sites of abandoned chapels, where positively identified, are particularly worthy of statutory protection as they were often left largely undisturbed and thus retain important information about the nature and date of their use up to their abandonment. Despite various phases of restoration evidenced by the varying constructional techniques, the medieval chapel called St Helen's Chapel on Cape Cornwall survives comparatively well and will retain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, use, abandonment, periods of re-use, modification, religious and social significance and overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England

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