Ancient Monuments

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The Hanging Chapel and a medieval gateway at The Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Huish Episcopi, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.0372 / 51°2'13"N

Longitude: -2.8238 / 2°49'25"W

OS Eastings: 342333.399149

OS Northings: 126746.289395

OS Grid: ST423267

Mapcode National: GBR MF.GSH5

Mapcode Global: FRA 46ZC.V02

Entry Name: The Hanging Chapel and a medieval gateway at The Hill

Scheduled Date: 3 December 1954

Last Amended: 7 June 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019290

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33713

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Huish Episcopi

Built-Up Area: Langport

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a medieval chapel sited over an arched medieval gateway.
The gateway spans the road on the crest of The Hill, a steep incline leading
from Langport towards Huish Episcopi approximately 1km to the east. The
chapel, known as the Hanging Chapel, dates from the 14th century and is built
of square cut local lias stone with a clay tiled pitched roof between coped
gables with ball finials. It is surrounded on its north, east and west sides
by a walkway which has a coped stone parapet and is reached by an external
flight of steps located in the corner of the south west facing wall of the
gateway. A 19th century stone extension with a flat roof has been attached to
the south side of the chapel at a lower level. Access into the chapel is
through a pointed arched doorway set into the west wall. Internally few
additions, partitions or alterations have been made, despite its varied
subsequent use. The chapel and gateway are Listed Grade I.
The chapel sits above a barrel-roofed archway which is aligned from east to
west and similarly constructed from local lias stone with plain end walls
which have chamfered arches at each end through which traffic still passes.
The east facing wall is buttressed. Two small niches are carved into each wall
of the archway: one is located high in the north wall and probably held a
statue in medieval times; the other, a pointed recess in the centre of the
south wall, is reputed to be the window of a cell which is thought to have
been located below the Hanging Chapel.
The arched gateway was built on the site of what may have been an original
break in a defensive bank of Saxon date which has been demonstrated by
excavation to have existed on this side of the town. The bank is almost
certainly that which defined the eastern boundary of the town in Saxon times
when Langport was one of a number of burhs listed in the early 10th century
Burghal Hideage (a Saxon list of fortified places). The recognition that the
town did not extend beyond the bank appears to be confirmed by the use of the
line of the bank as a parish boundary.
The chapel is first mentioned in 1344, as the Guild Chapel of St Mary to whom
it is still dedicated. It has had a variety of uses, becoming the Town Hall in
1570, a grammar school in the 18th century, and a Masonic Lodge from 1891.
The brick built feature attached to the north wall of the archway structure,
the paved walkway below it and the flight of steps attached to the west wall
are not included in the scheduling.
The road surface and its makeup beneath the archway is excluded from the
scheduling although the ground beneath these features is included. Internally,
all modern fixtures and fittings are excluded from the scheduling.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A gate chapel is an ecclesiastical structure of medieval date closely linked
with, or built directly over, a town gate. This relationship between a chapel
and a gate was an important one in medieval times when prayers would be
offered at the gate chapel upon safe arrival at the town or upon setting out
on a journey. Such chapels were popular with merchants and tradesmen arriving
at a new town and hoping for good fortune in their dealings; for this reason
gate chapels are sometimes associated with town guilds.
Despite restoration in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Hanging Chapel is a
standing building which survives well with a good deal of its medieval fabric
remaining. It is sited above a medieval gateway at a major route into Langport
from the east. Documentary records of the 14th century indicate its
association with the medieval guilds of the town and the Hanging Chapel will
retain archaeological and architectural evidence relating to the construction
and use of gate chapels. It is one of only a few surviving examples of this
type of chapel which have been recorded in England.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Somerset - Langport, (1974), 35
Graham, A H, Archaeological Investigations N of the Hanging Chapel, Langport, (1996)
Langport CP, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest,
Mr R Webb, Lodge Secretary,

Source: Historic England

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