Bridge Chapel 14m WSW of Castle Club.
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 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.
Despite restoration work and alterations, Bridge Chapel in Rochester survives well with a considerable amount of medieval standing remains. Bridge chapels were a relatively common feature of major bridges in the medieval period. They were a type of chantry chapel where prayers were said for the founder and benefactors of bridges and as a place for travellers to attend mass and pray for a safe journey. There are now few surviving examples. Although the bridge over the River Medway associated with the chapel is no longer extant, Bridge Chapel is a significant surviving testament of this tradition. The site will contain below-ground archaeological information relating to the construction, use and history of the chapel.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 18 March 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 medieval chapel, known as Bridge Chapel and as The Chapel of All Souls, surviving as upstanding and below-ground remains. It is situated between the Esplanade and Gundulph Square at the east bank of the River Medway in Rochester.
The chapel is built of ragstone. It is rectangular in plan and about 12m long and 8m wide internally. The chapel was restored in 1937 but includes substantial medieval standing remains including the walls, and several windows and doorways. In the west wall is a pointed arched doorway with hoodmoulding. It is flanked by three-light straight-headed windows also under hoodmoulds. Above the doorway is a modern round-headed three-light window. In the north wall of the chapel is a blocked pointed doorway and two-light windows, either blocked or with renewed tracery but with original inner arches. The roof of the chapel was added in 1937 but the medieval roof line is visible under a parapet. The chapel interior includes an aumbrey in the north wall and two piscinas in the south wall; one at the eastern end and another near the centre. Half-way along the south wall are notches for a rood screen, hidden behind modern panelling. The rood screen originally divided the chapel in half. Against the west side of the screen were two additional altars each side of a central doorway. The high altar of the chapel originally stood against the east wall, flanked by lamp corbels. Remains of these survive behind modern panelling. At the west end of the chapel is a gallery with re-used medieval fragments. The gallery was originally reached by a circular stairway in a clock tower at the north-west corner. On the south wall of the chapel is a plaque, which commemorates the construction of an adjoining porch in 1735. The porch was used to store records relating to a bridge across the River Medway.
Bridge Chapel was built and endowed as a chantry chapel by Sir John de Cobham in the 14th century at the south end of a bridge (demolished 1856) across the River Medway. It was founded in honour of the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and All Saints, probably reflecting the dedications of the three separate altars. The chapel was suppressed in 1548. It subsequently served as a store room for the bridge before being converted into a dwelling. In the Victorian period it was used as a shop. The adjoining Bridge Chamber was built in 1879. The chapel was restored in 1937 and is now (2010) used as a meeting and function room.
Bridge Chapel is listed Grade II together with the adjoining Bridge Chamber.