Chisbury Chapel, Wiltshire


Southeast corner
Chapel interior

Small, mid 13th century chapel, later used as a barn but retaining most of its original features. Beside a farm in a quiet location, and within the boundary of the Iron Age hillfort of Chisbury Camp
Along a track off Chisbury Lane, 6 miles east of Marlborough; SN8 3JS
On top of a small hill in the Wiltshire countryside six miles east of Marlborough, and just south of the tiny settlement of Chisbury, stand the remains of the minor, mid 13th century Chisbury Chapel, dedicated to St Martin, built to serve the local Lord of the Manor, allowing him and his neighbours to pay tithes and attend religious services without having to travel a little further to the local parish church, at Great Bedwyn.

Services were staged until 1547, after which the chapel was closed, as part of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the building was subsequently used as a barn, part of a farm which is still in operation. The thatch and wood chapel roof is relatively recent (18th century) and there are no surviving interior furnishings, but the fabric is intact, including six windows, some with remnants of Gothic tracery, plus one original doorway, and represents a fine example of a country chapel from this period.

Although part of a working farm, the chapel is managed by English Heritage and is accessible free of charge at any time, during daylight hours. The farm lies within the boundary of a much older historic site, an oval-shaped hill fort (Chisbury Camp) from the Iron Age, its position recognisable from faint, concentric lines of ditches and embankments, now wooded, forming a ring over 150 feet wide in some places; all the buildings lie within the formerly protected area. Visitors approach the chapel via a track from the east, and the farm is also accessed via roads to the north, west and south; all four are thought to correspond to the original entrances to the fort.

The Chapel

The chapel's location is indicated by signs in the village; a short distance along Chisbury Lane to the east, then 900 feet southwest up a narrow track, parking beside the building, at the edge of the farm precinct. The chapel measures 58 by 26 feet in size, and its walls are formed mostly of flint pebbles, with sandstone used for the door and window frames, plus some red bricks from a later period. Inside, the faded remains of a red medieval consecration cross can be seen, plus lines in the partly plastered walls that mark position of the (wooden) rood screen that once separated the nave (at the west end) from the chancel. The original, arched doorway to the chapel is in the north wall, though access now is through a more recent entrance to the south.