St Michael's Chapel, Chapel Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Torbay (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SX 90308 65093

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. The sites of abandoned chapels, where positively identified, are particularly worthy of statutory protection as they were often left largely undisturbed and thus retain important information about the nature and date of their use up to their abandonment.

St Michael's Chapel survives exceptionally well as a standing building with much of its medieval fabric intact. The setting of the chapel on a high rocky promontory at some distance from human habitation in medieval times, suggests that it may have been a special foundation. Its unhewn and uneven floor may be considered to be evidence for the chapel having been sited where a religious vision was reported, resulting in the sanctity of the bare rock being respected. St Michael's Chapel is in an extremely unusual setting for such a building and it will contain archaeological and architectural evidence relating to the period in which it was constructed and will be informative about religious beliefs in the medieval period.


The monument includes the medieval St Michael's Chapel, a rectangular stone- built structure considered to be of 14th century date. The chapel is situated on the summit of Chapel Hill, on the edge of a steep sided limestone cliff which may be a former quarry face. The location is a commanding one with extensive views over Torbay. The chapel, which is a Grade II Listed Building, survives as a standing building built of limestone rubble with contrasting red sandstone quoins, and entrance and window dressings also of sandstone; the roof is of local stone slate carried on a barrel vault. A large Bathstone cross of mid-19th century date surmounts the east gable end. The chapel is orientated east-west and consists of a single aisleless cell with external dimensions of 11.2m east- west by 6.6m north-south and with walls 1.2m thick. It has a single arched entrance 1.4m wide in the south wall fronted by the remains of a later stone porch; the entrance is barred by a modern iron grill. The floor of the chapel is provided by the unhewn rock upon which the building stands; this rock floor, which rises from west to east, shows considerable signs of wear close to the entrance indicating many years of use and suggesting also that the rock had never been sealed by an artificial floor covering. Internal features include traces of original wall plaster, a niche in the south wall which may have been a piscina, and opposing windows in the north and south walls. The north facing window has been blocked whilst the south facing window has been partly blocked. Two further small windows on contrasting levels are set into the west wall. The chapel may have belonged to the Premonstratensian house of Torre Abbey which was founded in 1196 and which lies about 1.5km to the south although direct supporting evidence for its connection with Torre Abbey only exists for the post-medieval period. The exposed rock floor within the building has been taken to suggest that the chapel may mark the site of a religious vision. The site is shown as St Marie's Chapel on the 16th century map of Devon produced by John Speed and an earlier dedication of the chapel to St Mary survives in 17th century records, suggesting that the dedication to St Michael is of more recent origin. The post-medieval boundary walls to the north and south of the chapel, where these lie within the monument's 2m margin of protection, and the stone access steps on the north east exterior corner of the chapel, which also lie within the 2m margin of protection, and the iron grill across the entrance to the chapel, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features or to which they are attached is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


NBR No 96166, Jones, B V, St Michael's Chapel, Chapel Hill, Torquay, Devon, (1997)


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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