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North Lees Chapel

A Scheduled Monument in Hathersage, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 53.3484 / 53°20'54"N

Longitude: -1.6509 / 1°39'3"W

OS Eastings: 423336.912925

OS Northings: 383552.44219

OS Grid: SK233835

Mapcode National: GBR JYXQ.DF

Mapcode Global: WHCCN.M32D

Entry Name: North Lees Chapel

Scheduled Date: 23 December 1997

Last Amended: 9 May 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020172

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29792

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Hathersage

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Hathersage St Michael and All Angels

Church of England Diocese: Derby


The monument includes the small, ruined Roman Catholic chapel of North Lees
and an area surrounding the chapel ruins containing loose masonry and possible
buried archaeological remains. The chapel stands in open fields close to North
Lees Hall. It comprises a single rectangular building of 13m by 6.7m. The
building stands on sloping ground on an earthen platform, revetted at its
western end. The chapel does not follow a strict east-west axis but respects
more the contour of the land: its orientation is ENE to WSW. The chapel has
been incorporated into the junction of later field boundaries.
The east wall of the chapel is the most complete and stands to a maximum
height of approximately 3m. It is 6.7m long and is built from large,
Millstone Grit blocks of local extraction. There is no trace of surviving
mortar. The east wall contains a central opening with a round arch and
chamfered jambs, approximately 2m in height and 1.4m in width. The south wall
is 13m long and stands to a maximum height of about 1m, although much of it
survives as footings only. There appears to have been a buttress near the
south east corner of the building which extends for 0.8m to the south at
foundation level. The south wall has a light covering of stone debris which
extends for approximately 1.5m to the south, except at the south west corner
where the debris is more extensive. The west wall survives to a height of
approximately 1m for all of its 6.7m length. There is a narrow, central
opening of 0.8m width with chamfered jambs which is of similar style to that
at the east end.
The north wall stands to a maximum height of 1.3m for most of its 13m length
but is obscured from the north side by a substantial amount of stone debris
which extends to the north for about 6m. All of the walls are 0.85m thick. To
the west of the chapel, the level platform extends for a further 3.5m before
the land drops steeply away at the revetment. The latter is now covered with
a large amount of stone debris for a further 6m or 7m. There appears to have
been a wall extending from the south west corner of the building which is now
barely visible due to a substantial amount of stone debris covering the area
and extending for about 10m to the south west. A map of 1830 shows this to
have been a field wall. Another ruinous drystone wall abutts the south east
corner of the building which separates two fields to the east. Similarly, a
further ruinous wall abutts the north west corner of the chapel which then
joins a maintained wall, some 9m to the north west. The arch of the east
window was re-erected in c.1850. By 1877 the chapel was partly concealed in a
small plantation. Only the west wall was then standing which had a round-
headed doorway. A photograph taken around 1968 shows the chapel in similar
condition to the present but the east wall slightly less complete, indicating
that some restoration work has been carried out again during the last 30
The date of the original building on this site is not known. One source
claims that the chapel, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was built in 1685 in
the reign of James II by the Eyre family and was subsequently destroyed during
the Glorious Revolution of 1688. However, this version is disputed by another
source which states that from 1591 North Lees had a series of Protestant
owners, which would make a 17th century date for the chapel most unlikely.
This source states that the chapel may date from the pre-Reformation and was
last used by Richard Fenton, the last Catholic owner of the estate in around
1590. Fenton was a persecuted recusant who had retired to North Lees in 1576.
It is possible that the 16th century chapel fell into disrepair, although
subsequent owners may have used it as a domestic chapel. An inventory of the
estate buildings of 1628 did not mention a chapel. The present buildings of
North Lees Hall are thought to have been constructed in 1594: the location of
the previous buildings is unknown, but may have been closer to the chapel. By
the early 19th century, North Lees had become an attraction for visitors
interested in `gothic mysteries' and Charlotte Bronte also stayed here in
1845. The setting for the novel Jane Eyre is thought to have been based on
North Lees.
Excluded from the scheduling are the modern field walls abutting the north
west and south east corners of the building, but the ground beneath them is

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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.

North Lees Chapel is particularly important as the only surviving monument of
its type in the Peak District National Park; the remains of Roman Catholic
field chapels are rare nationally. If, as seems likely, the chapel dates from
the 16th century it would provide a good archaeological record of the period.
Despite the chapel being in a ruinous state, all foundation levels survive and
much archaeological information may well be preserved beneath the debris from
collapsed fabric.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cox, J C, Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire. Volume 2, (1877), 253
Meredith, R, Farms and Families of Hathersage Outseats: Volume 1, (1983), 10-20
Smith, B, Padley Hall near Grindleford, Derbyshire., (1990)
Title: Tithe map of Hathersage
Source Date: 1830
as per Derbyshire Record Office

Source: Historic England

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