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Bygone Stanley - St Swithens Chantry Chapel

ST. SWITHEN'S CHANTRY CHAPEL

Most people know a little about St. Swithen who, in 862 was Chaplain to Egbert, King of Wessex and was Bishop of Winchester from 852. Well known by most for the tradition that any rain on St. Swithen's day, 15th July, will remain for the next 40 days, which may refer to the heavy rain said to have occurred when his relics were transferred to a shrine in the Cathedral.

There was a chapel built near the top of Stanley Hill in some fields near Clarke Hall. The site of this chapel was excavated some years ago by a Mr. Haldane of Clarke Rail and it was shown as a rectangular building 45ft in length and 21ft in breadth.

F. N. Steele in his book 'Glimpses of Stanley' obviously did some very interesting research on this chapel. It appears that it was founded by John De Warenne, the seventh Lord of the Manor of Wakefield. He had the chapel built and dedicated to Saint Swithen so that in times of epidemic or plague the people of Stanley effected by the illness could attend mass there and so lessen the risk of infecting other people.'

There is a reference in a old document which suggests that from the proceeds of the Manor of Wakefield, money was paid for a priest to live at this St. Swithen's Chapel and to say Mass there for the sum of £4. lOs. 2d. (this would probably be a yearly salary).

The chapel was discontinued at the dissolutions of Chantry Chapels in 1548 during the reign of Henry VIII. The bells were removed and taken to the Chantry Chapel on the bridge in Wakefield. After the dissolution of St. Swithen's chapel, the villagers of Stanley had no place for worship. The write up on the Corpse Road shows how difficult it was to bury their dead. I would say that at that time many of the dead must have been buried in their own fields, with perhaps a churchwarden from the parish of Wakefield saying prayers and giving comfort to the bereaved. Their remains were finally disturbed by open cast mining and the old Bell pits.

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