St Peter’s chapel

Somewhere between Cross Lane and the Bircham Road lies the site of the chapel of St Peter.

The pasture between Cross Lane, Docking Road and Bircham Road is still called Chapel Field, and Cross Lane itself was once known as Petergate. “Gate”, from the Danish gade meaning “street”, was the usual name for a road in Stanhoe until at least the seventeenth century.

1905 map extract

The 1905 Ordnance Survey map seems to say that the site of the chapel is the small enclosure (dotted lines) opposite the Reading Room

Within living memory

Ivy Scales played in the Chapel Field as a child and says they always kept out of an area of white chalky stone that was “a holy place”, which sounds very like the site of the chapel.

From what Mrs Scales was able to show Rosemary Brown, the chapel site is now beneath the bungalow in Cross Lane known as Windermere. The chalky remains – quite narrow, so possibly just the foundations of one wall – were in front of where the bungalow is now, running southwards from the front door.

Listen to Mrs Scales in her own words on our sound recordings pages.

The map of 1639 (below) shows several buildings in Chapel Field, but by this time the chapel was probably a ruin and may have disappeared altogether. Derek Scales remembers the remains of a barn at the north end of the field, and to this day this area shows clear humps in the grass, with chalk foundations 15 cm below the surface (see also the aerial photo below). There are more humps towards the south end of the field.

Chapel Field on the map of 1639

This map of 1639 shows several buildings and a footpath in Chapel Field. The building circled in red is in roughly the right position to match the later Ordnance Survey record of the chapel site. The map is from a tracing by the late Ken Foskett

The chapel’s entry in the Norfolk Historic Environment Record is not encouraging: “There is no record of any archaeological evidence of this feature, and the site has been built over”. Based on Ordnance Survey records, the NHER gives the location as TF 8055 3689, on the Chapel Field side of Cross Lane, opposite the Reading Room. The OS map of 1905 (above) may confirm this.

photo: Mark Roche

Aerial photo of Chapel Field in snow, showing marks of buildings

With snow on the ground and low winter sunlight, aerial photography shows clear marks in Chapel Field, especially in the northern (top) part, which may be the remains of buildings. The chapel itself probably disappeared beneath one of the bungalows at the bottom of the photo.

Written records

The few references which exist in the Easthall Manor Court rolls and Bailiff’s Accounts (now at the Archive Centre in Norwich) have so far revealed the following entries:

1384 Christiana March of Stanhoe leaves “4 bushels of barley to [be used for] mending the Chapel of St Peter”.

Was the chapel becoming derelict by this time, nearly a century after the building of All Saints’, or had it suffered an accident?

1410 “The road to the ‘ecclesia’ [church or chapel] of St Peter” (Court Roll, Easthall Manor).

1509 Payment of 1s to the Prior of Walsingham. 3 acres of pasture is mentioned (Easthall, bailiff’s accounts).

1520 A messuage [a house including its gardens and outbuildings, if any] is built on an enclosure called Petersgatehouse.

1523 Payment of 18d to the Prior of Walsingham.

1533 Payment of 5s 1d to the Prior of Walsingham.

1538 [The date of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries] “Payment of 5s 1d formerly paid to the Chapel of St Mary, Walsingham – nothing”.

1548 “Payment formerly paid to the Prior of Walsingham, now to be made to the Manor of the Lord King at North Creake”.

(These payments may be for pasture land that had been willed to Walsingham Priory).

1595 John Oughton in his will leaves to his son “the corn in the Chapel Barn”. This could mean either a barn built on the Chapel field, or that the chapel itself – which by then had been abandoned for more than 50 years – was being used as a barn.

1639 A map of Stanhoe shows several buildings on Chapel Field. It is not clear that any of these is the chapel.

1657 The tenant of what is now Ivy Farm leaves “a piece of land with the Chapel built on it”. It sounds as if the ruins were still visible.

Cut stones, possibly from St Peter's chapel

These pieces of stone, found by Ken Foskett in Cross Lane, suggest that the chapel may have been founded in Norman or even Saxon times

From Blomefield’s History of Norfolk (published 1809):

“In this parish was an old chapel frequented by pilgrims in their way to Walsingham, dedicated to St Peter”.

More recent references in printed literature almost always follow Blomefield, who was writing in the late 18th century, more than two centuries after the Chapel’s demise.

stone moulding

This nicely carved stone moulding, one of several in
Roddy Rowe’s garden in Cross Lane, is another likely
survivor from St Peter’s