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St Michael's Chapel, Chapel Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Tormohun, Torbay

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Latitude: 50.4754 / 50°28'31"N

Longitude: -3.5472 / 3°32'49"W

OS Eastings: 290308.445637

OS Northings: 65092.618254

OS Grid: SX903650

Mapcode National: GBR QV.WD88

Mapcode Global: FRA 37GS.V6Z

Entry Name: St Michael's Chapel, Chapel Hill

Scheduled Date: 13 May 1952

Last Amended: 18 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019131

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33024

County: Torbay

Electoral Ward/Division: Tormohun

Built-Up Area: Torquay

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Torre All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes the medieval St Michael's Chapel, a rectangular stone-
built structure considered to be of 14th century date. The chapel is situated
on the summit of Chapel Hill, on the edge of a steep sided limestone cliff
which may be a former quarry face. The location is a commanding one with
extensive views over Torbay.
The chapel, which is a Grade II Listed Building, survives as a standing
building built of limestone rubble with contrasting red sandstone quoins, and
entrance and window dressings also of sandstone; the roof is of local stone
slate carried on a barrel vault. A large Bathstone cross of mid-19th century
date surmounts the east gable end. The chapel is orientated east-west and
consists of a single aisleless cell with external dimensions of 11.2m east-
west by 6.6m north-south and with walls 1.2m thick. It has a single arched
entrance 1.4m wide in the south wall fronted by the remains of a later stone
porch; the entrance is barred by a modern iron grill. The floor of the chapel
is provided by the unhewn rock upon which the building stands; this rock
floor, which rises from west to east, shows considerable signs of wear close
to the entrance indicating many years of use and suggesting also that the rock
had never been sealed by an artificial floor covering. Internal features
include traces of original wall plaster, a niche in the south wall which may
have been a piscina, and opposing windows in the north and south walls. The
north facing window has been blocked whilst the south facing window has been
partly blocked. Two further small windows on contrasting levels are set into
the west wall.
The chapel may have belonged to the Premonstratensian house of Torre Abbey
which was founded in 1196 and which lies about 1.5km to the south although
direct supporting evidence for its connection with Torre Abbey only exists for
the post-medieval period. The exposed rock floor within the building has been
taken to suggest that the chapel may mark the site of a religious vision. The
site is shown as St Marie's Chapel on the 16th century map of Devon produced
by John Speed and an earlier dedication of the chapel to St Mary survives in
17th century records, suggesting that the dedication to St Michael is of more
recent origin.
The post-medieval boundary walls to the north and south of the chapel, where
these lie within the monument's 2m margin of protection, and the stone access
steps on the north east exterior corner of the chapel, which also lie within
the 2m margin of protection, and the iron grill across the entrance to the
chapel, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these
features or to which they are attached is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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.

St Michael's Chapel survives exceptionally well as a standing building with
much of its medieval fabric intact. The setting of the chapel on a high rocky
promontory at some distance from human habitation in medieval times, suggests
that it may have been a special foundation. Its unhewn and uneven floor may be
considered to be evidence for the chapel having been sited where a religious
vision was reported, resulting in the sanctity of the bare rock being
respected. St Michael's Chapel is in an extremely unusual setting for such a
building and it will contain archaeological and architectural evidence
relating to the period in which it was constructed and will be informative
about religious beliefs in the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


NBR No 96166, Jones, B V, St Michael's Chapel, Chapel Hill, Torquay, Devon, (1997)

Source: Historic England

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