St Laurence’s Chapel of Otham Abbey, 60m SSE of Otteham Court.
Reasons for Designation
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. Other chapels were built as private places of worship by manorial lords or formed part of houses of religious communities of monks or nuns. The chapel at Otham Abbey formed part of a house of Premonstratensian canons. The Premonstratensian order, or "White Canons", were not monks in the strict sense but rather communities of priests living together under a rule. The first Premonstratensian establishments were double houses (for men and women), but later they founded some 45 houses for men in England. The Premonstratensian order modelled itself on the Cistercian values of austerity and seclusion and founded all its houses in rural locations.
Despite later alterations and repairs St Laurence’s Chapel survives well and retains a significant proportion of surviving medieval fabric. Its importance is enhanced through its association as a former chapel of Otham Abbey, a house of Premonstratensian canons.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 26 February 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes a chapel, built in about 1350 and dedicated to St Lawrence, surviving as upstanding and below-ground remains. It originally formed part of Otham Abbey, a house of Premonstratensian canons. The chapel is situated on flat ground south of Otham Court Lane, near Polegate. It is built of flint and greensand with greensand dressings and repairs patched in red brick. It is a small building, aisleless in plan and 10m long by 7m wide with a slate roof on old oak timbers. The external corners have stone clasp buttresses and there is a central buttress in the south side. There are two twin, trefoil-headed windows of 14th century date in the north and south walls. In the west wall is a blocked doorway and high in the east wall, a large blocked window, both with pointed arches. The interior includes a gabled sedilia and piscina. Beneath the east end is a brick-lined tunnel to Priesthawes, about a mile away, which is thought to be of 16th or 17th century date.
Otham Abbey was founded by Ralph de Dene for Premonstratensian Canons in about 1180. In around 1208, the abbey was moved to Bayham, Kent and Otham became a grange with a chapel which was probably served by one of the canons of Bayham. It was eventually suppressed in 1526.
St Laurence’s Chapel is Grade II* listed.