Remains of chapel on Brent Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Hams (District Authority)
South Brent
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SX 70317 61687


The medieval chapel of St Michael on Brent Hill 625m NNW of Leigh Cross.

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. Unlike parish churches, the majority of chapels were often abandoned as their communities and supporting finances declined or disappeared. Many chapels disappeared after the dissolution of their supporting communities in the 1540s. Chapels, like parish churches, have always been major features of the landscape. Despite damage caused by natural disasters and subsequent re-use the medieval chapel of St Michael on Brent Hill 625m NNW of Leigh Cross survives comparatively well and has a richly documented history. It was built to celebrate mass on a specific day as part of a particular celebration by an abbey, the dissolution of which forms a major part of British religious, social, economic and political history. The subsequent erection of a folly on the site to monumentalise the original chapel indicates that it was still held in high regard despite periods of iconoclastic rebellion during the Reformation and Restoration and even following the major damaging event in the 1770’s. The chapel will still contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, use, reconstruction and subsequent re-use until its final abandonment and may reveal important information about the nature of the celebration of religious fairs through time and its overall landscape context.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 12 November 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.

This monument includes a medieval chapel situated close to the summit of Brent Hill overlooking the Avon Valley. The chapel survives as a rectangular building measuring 6m long by 3.5m wide internally, with upstanding masonry walls to the north and east of up to 0.9m wide and 1.5m high, elsewhere the walls and internal structures are preserved as buried features. The walls are constructed from mortared rubble faced with trimmed and dressed granite blocks. Part of a window splay is visible in the east wall and a 0.9m wide door opening is traceable on the ground in the south west corner. At some distance to the south lies a small block of detached masonry. The chapel has a well documented history. In 1340 Edward III granted Abbot Phillip of Buckfast (the abbey owned the manor of Brent) the right to hold a three day annual fair at South Brent to celebrate the feast of St Michael. In 1374 a charter for the erection of a chapel was licensed by Bishop Brantyngham and gave permission for mass to be heard once a year on St Michael’s Day, to coincide with the fair. The time delay between these two events may have been brought about by the Black Death, which delayed construction of the chapel. In 1777 the chapel was damaged during a storm, allegedly by a lightning strike. It was subsequently incorporated into a folly in about 1781 and there is a published sketch dated 1789 of this building as a ‘monument to the former chapel’. Several sources suggest a ‘windmill’ in its place by the 1790’s. This building was also severely damaged by storms in 1824 leaving only fragments of the original chapel. There is also a suggestion that a ‘watchers hut’ was erected to provide shelter for those involved with a nearby beacon, but as to whether this incorporated the chapel or not is unclear.

The chapel is immediately surrounded by another scheduled monument. The chapel is listed at Grade II.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DV 823
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument No:-444950


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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