Our Church during the Middle Ages


No 14: The Lady Chapel

The South Chapel or Lady Chapel as it was called in the will of William Grove in 1513, was probably added on to the south aisle in the mid – 14th century. it seems to have been used, to some extent at least, as a chantry chapel, a partlcuar feature of the 14th and 15th centuries, in which a priest was employed to sing (or rather ‘chant’) masses for the souls of the departed. William Grove left 2d towards its upkeep and Roger Playter, who died in 1549, left 4d to the priest to say ‘masse in the chapell for my soule at a tyme convenient’.

However, the chapel seems to have remained an integral part of the church since there is no record of a separate chantry licence being issued by the Bishop. Nor is there any record of the transfer of valuables and endowments to the King, as required by the Chantry Act of 1547, shortly after Henry VIII’s death, when the Protestant Reformation expressed the new disapproval of the Catholic doctrines of saying masses for the dead, by dissolving all the chantries.

Medieval man was extremely anxious about his prospects in the next world, and those who could afford it went to considerable expense to employ priests to pray for their souls, sometimes years after they had died. Richard de Wycombe, for instance, who was Rector of Penn in 1322, was licensed by the Bishop to leave the parish for an entire year in order to attend the obsequies of Sir John Segrave (who held Segrave Manor in Penn as a smaIl part of his very large estate).

© Miles Green, June 1998.


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