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St Stephens Chapel or Chapel Barn

 






church

About 1 mile north-east of the village, down a track through Fysh House Farm, lies this Chapel of St. Stephen. This was the private chapel of the Manor of Tany, or Tauney, and was dedicated to St. Stephen on St. Stephen's Day 1218, by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This makes it the oldest building in the parish, it pre-dates the church by approx 150 years.

Location:-Ordnance Survey map reference TL917345
Walks: 1.5 miles from village
Conditions: Road and farm track access
Access: The Farm Manager at Fysh House farm is a key holder
This site is suitable for wheelchair access.
Managed by:-
Geoffrey Probert. Great Bevills, Bures
How to get there:-
By Road: Take the Assington Rd (Cuckoo Hill) out of Bures. At the top of Cuckoo Hill enter Fysh House Farm. Continue through farm keeping to concrete road, past "Treesave" renovation works (right side) and follow gravel drive. At the bottom of drive turn right for the Chapel.
This is a Private Chapel and is secured and locked.

There are no valuables or artifacts stored within the Chapel.


On Christmas Day 855, history tells us, Bishop Humbert of Elmham anointed a 14-year-old boy as King of the East Angles. The boy was Edmund, the chosen heir of King Offa, and his Coronation was documented at `Burva`.
The chronicler Galfridus de Fontibus also described the coronation as having taken place at "Bures", which is an ancient royal hill.
It is the general belief that this was the lonely hilltop, where St Stephen's Chapel now stands.

Unfortunately Edmund didn`t survive long, the invading Danes captured Edmund and held a mock trial, reviled, stripped and scourged him because he would not renounce the Christian Faith. He only opened his lips once and that was to confess to Christ.
At the end of the November day, the Danes led him out of the village of Hoxne bound him to an oak at the edge of the forest and then in a most calculated cruel way made him a target for their arrows, deliberately avoiding any vital parts.
The Danish Chief gave him one last chance to renounce his Faith but he refused. The Danes decapitated him without mercy. Poor Bishop Humbert who had carried out the Coronation followed the same terrible fate within minutes.

When the Danes left the area, the local Christian men recovered his body and laid it to rest in a local wooden Chapel
In 903, the Danish Christian King Canute transferred his body to Bury, which in time became the site of the Abbey we see today.

Thus martyred, it was natural that Edmund should be canonised: his shrine at the place which was to became known as Bury St Edmunds. It became a very popular site of pilgrimage, enabling the abbey there to thrive. but where was his royal seat, his place of coronation, Burva?

There is good reason to believe that the Manor House for which the Chapel was once built, stood on the summit of Cuckoo Hill now occupied by a small grove of trees. For all houses that were of any importance, were fortified usually by a pallisade of wood with a commanding view of the open countryside.
(ref WGCP)

It contains the effigies of three Earls of Oxford, the only survivors of twenty-one tombs once found at Earls Colne Priory. The became ruined after the Reformation and only a shell remains today.

At least, there appear to be three: close inspection by expert eyes has suggested that they are in fact made up from pieces of seven separate monuments which were originally located at Earls Colne Priory. This was mainly due to the confusion in trying to piece together the tombs, after the destruction of the original Priory.
This chapel fell into disuse after the Reformation.

 

church
church

The disused Chapel of St Stephens was converted to a hospital in the plague of 1739 and later became cottages then eventually a barn, hence its local name "Chapel Barn"

Glebe Terrier of 1739 reports, "
Small pox outbreak, Chapel Barn hospital full to capacity"

As the name Chapel Barn implies, this simple building pretty much resembles a barn - indeed that is what it remained as until it restoration 70 years ago. It was a barn, however, of stone, with narrow lancet windows and a steeply pitched thatched roof. Extensions in brick and timber at the west and north date from the period after the Reformation when the building became cottages.

Strangely, what looks on the outside like an agricultural outbuilding, seen inside resembles a mausoleum.

It was restored to its present condition in the 1930s by members of the Probert family and re-consecrated.
Once a year each summer, a service is held in the chapel by the congregation of St Mary`s Church, Bures.

Photographs by Alan Beales
Updated 23/08/09