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HER Number:MDV4510
Name:St. Anne's Chapel, Barnstaple


Originally built as a charnel chapel in the 14th century, St. Anne's Chapel was endowed as a chantry chapel in 1459. It became a school in the mid 16th century and remained in use as such until 1910, although it was also used for Hugenot services in the later 17th and 18th centuries. It became a museum in 1928, a role which came to an end in 1997. The building is currently disused.


Grid Reference:SS 558 332
Map Sheet:SS53SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBarnstaple
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBARNSTAPLE

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS53SE/128
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I)
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SS53SE15

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CHAPEL (XIV to XVI - 1301 AD to 1600 AD)

Full description

Lettaby, W. R., 15/10/1912, Notice (Unknown). SDV91380.

Lysons, D. + Lysons, S., 1822, Magna Britannica. Devonshire, 36-37 (Monograph). SDV323771.

Gribble, J. B., 1830, Barnstaple (Cartographic). SDV357319.

Building marked as Grammar School (7).

Oliver, G., 1842, Ecclesiastical Antiquities in Devon Vol. 3, 28 (Monograph). SDV336342.

St Anne's Chapel was erected over the charnel house, the latter of 'great antiquity'.

Ordnance Survey, 1855-1895, First Edition 1:500 Town Map (Cartographic). SDV338879.

'Grammar School/ St Anne's Chapel' marked on 1855-1895 town map.

Johnston, C., 1867, St. Anne's Chapel. The Grammar School, Barnstaple, 114-123 (Article in Serial). SDV70734.

St. Anne's Chapel, now used as a grammar school. Stands in the churchyard of Barnstaple old church, built over the charnel house of the parish cemetery. Oliver (Monasticon) states there was a chapel of St. Anne here in 1444. The writer believes that the original building on the site was the chapel of St. Sabinus, mentioned in the charter of Joel the founder of the priory of St. Mary Magdalene, to which it was given with the church of St. Peter, in part support of the new community. The original building is quadrangular, length 44 feet by 23 feet. The entrance was in the west wall, by a doorway three feet wide, with a plane moulding at the external angles, where the walls are chamfered off on each side and lined in the most primitive manner by light slabs of freestone. Six narrow apertures, splayed internally from 1.5 feet outside to 8 feet inside. Walls of rough rubble masonry. On the west gable, at present, a small open belfry of brick stands. Original building has been altered. A quadrangular tower, 12 feet by 9 feet, has been added on to the west end of the south wall. Coursed rubble masonry used. The tower is divided into three stories, the second one serving as a vestibule to a large room extending the whole length of the building, the floor being supported on transverse joists on an immense central beam. From a stone arched doorway, on the western face of this entrance story, a curving flight of ten steps leads to the pathway through the churchyard. The room beneath was low and was used as a store or tool-house. The room on the roof had two imposing windows and may have been a cell or dormitory for an officiating priest, or a room for his vestments and books. There is no regular bonding of the masonry of the tower with the earlier work. Two 14th century windows were inserted into the east and south walls. St. Anne's chapel in st. Peter's churchyard.

Harpley, W., 1891, Report of the Council, 17 (Article in Serial). SDV360880.

Assigned to the Huguenot refugees landed at Barntsaple, in 1685. Now used as a grammar school.

Bracken, C. W., 1934, The Huguenot Churches of Plymouth and Stonehouse., 165 (Article in Serial). SDV91375.

After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, St. Anne's Chapel held services in French for the exiled Hugenot community in Barnstaple for up to 75 years. At the time of writing, the building was in use as a museum.

Pevsner, N., 1952, The Buildings of England: North Devon, 47 (Monograph). SDV336196.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, 330 (Monograph). SDV17562.

Chantry endowed in 1459. Used for Hugenot worship 1685-1785 while in use as a grammar school.

Lomas, J., 1967, The Old doors and Doorways of Barnstaple, 39 (Article in Serial). SDV85818.

The upper half of the building dates from 1456. The undercroft dates from the late 13th or early 14th century. Now thoroughly restored. Retains an original pointed doorway, with its hood showing roll-moulding of the period, remaining intact.

Department of Environment, 1973, Barnstaple, 45 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV89941.

Chapel of St. Anne. Now a museum and corporation property. Early 14th century chantry chapel. Late the grammar school (John Gay (1688-1732) was educated here) was held in the building. Also used for services for Hugenots until circa 1750. Rectangular two storey, stone, with three storey porch (probably later) at south-west angle. Restored windows with shuldered arches to crypt 14th century windows to main floor. Chimney bell turret, steps etc recent.

Devon County Council, 1975, Barnstaple Town Trail, 17 (Article in Monograph). SDV352446.

Among the scholars educated here were John Jewel, born 1522, who became a Bishop of Salisbury and John Gay, born 1685, poet and composer of The Beggar's Opera.

Timms, S. C., 1976, The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft, 71 (Report - Survey). SDV341346.

Markuson, K. W., 1980, Barnstaple Survey (Un-published). SDV356766.

Young, G. M., 2010, Archaeological Recording at St Anne's Chapel, Paternoster Row, Barnstaple (Report - Assessment). SDV347232.

First documented in 1459 when a chantry chapel was endowed. However the fabric of the chapel is earlier, probably by more than a hundred years, and it was evidentally originally built as a charnel chapel.
It was granted to the Prideauxs in 1547, who sold it to Barnstaple Corporation in whose ownership it became the High School or Grammar School. It remained in use as a school from 1550 until 1910, and became a museum in 1928. In 1989 its role as a museum ended, and the Victorian schoolroom was re-construted using artefacts such as slate pencils, marbles and peashooters which had been recovered from the heating ducts.
The main part of the building is a simple rectangular structure with an undercroft sunk below the surrounding graveyard, separated from a lofty upper room by a boarded floor. A forebuilding with windows in Perpendicular style incorporating stairs leading into the upper room was added. No documentation survives for either phase of work, but the primary build is broadly datable to circa 1300 by the Decorated tracery of its windows. The crypt was lit by narrow slit windows, all but one of which has since been enlarged. Massive oak posts with arch braces support the floor of the chapl room above.
The interior of the chapel room has apparently changed little. The walls were probably plastereed from the outset and only one area of repair was visible, a 3.5 metre long area of patching on the south wall.
The upper room was clearly built as a chapel, and whilst it was not certain that it was initially a chantry this is likely; it certainly served this purpose in the 15th- and early 16th centuries. Although the primary purpose of the lower room seems not to be known, it is likely that it was a charnel chapel. It bears strong similarities to buildings firmly identifieable as charnel chapels in the graveyards of Exeter and Bodmin, which also date to the late 13th- or early 14th centuries.
The earliest fabric to survive from its use as a school appears to be the desk bases. These are in the form of turned oak balusters mounted by wooden pegs onto a sing horizontal foot. They are thought to be 17th century and, as they are not freestanding, they are probably reused balustrades. In the 19th century the desk tops were renewed with softwood. These are fitted with ink wells which give some indication of likely putpil numbers.
Restoration work in circa 1869 included alterations to the surrounding graveyard walls and ground level, but the plan of the building has not changed from that shown n the Barnstple Bridge Trust map of 1772.
See report for full details.

Gaimster, M., 2011, Post-Medieval Fieldwork in Britain and Northern Ireland in 2010: Devon (Article in Serial). SDV361542.

Recording by G.M. Young (Exeter Archaeology) of this 14th-century chantry chapel in the town centre, re-established around 1547 as a school, found evidence of successive layouts of desks and other fittings within the schoolroom (citing Exeter Archaeology Report 10.59).

Cox, J., 2011, St Annes Chapel, Paternoster Row, Barnstaple, Devon: A Conservation Management Plan for Barnstaple Town Council (Report - non-specific). SDV352256.

Described by W.R. Lethaby as 'the oldest standing building, and historically and artistically, the most interesting building in Barnstaple', St. Anne's Chapel is a rare surviving example of a detached chantry chapel. Sited in the churchyard of the parish church, it probably has early 14th century origins. Its crypt was used at one time as a charnel house but it is not clear if it was built with this in mind. At the suppression of the chantries the chapel was acquired by two lawyers, then sold to the Barnstaple Corporation and became a school. When the school closed in 1910 the Town Council resolved to preserve the building and in 1928 it became the Barnstaple Town Museum. It remained a museum until 1997. The chapel is currently disused but again the Town Council is determined to see the building reused. Keystone's report contains extensive details of the buildings history including historical sketches and paintings and sets out conservation policies in order to provide a guide to the future care and development of the chapel.

Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

'St Anne's Chapel (Museum) marked on modern mapping.

English Heritage, 2012, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV348729.

St Annes Chapel and Old Grammar School Museum including walls and gates and piers. Chantry chapel, later grammar school, now museum. Probably early 14th century with early/mid 16th century tower, restored 1869; enclosing walls and gates mid/late 19th century. Stone rubble, that in the tower roughly coursed; dressed stone surrounds to windows and doorway. Slated roof with 19th century crested red ridge-tiles. Stone rubble chimney on north wall; square top of dressed stone, its sides (now panelled in red brick) probably open originally. Plan consists of a single large upper room with undercroft. Square tower at west end of south side containing entrance porch and staircase. EXTERIOR: 2 storeys; tower 3-storeyed. Ground storey has 3 single-light shouldered-head windows in north wall, 2 in south wall and 2 of 2 lights each in east wall; all have been re-made in 19th century; relieving arches above. In west wall is a narrow doorway with chamfered pointed head and drip-mould of worn, orange-coloured stone; chamfered jambs rebuilt in local stone; relieving arch above. In upper storey, north, south, and west walls each have a 2-light, pointed-arched window and hoodmould of worn, orange-coloured stone, that in west wall possibly a restoration; trefoil-headed lights with round cinquefoil light in the head. Similar 3-light window, partly restored, in east wall; the round light differs in containing 3 trefoil panels. Tower has a worn segmental-headed doorway (possibly of Beer stone) in 2nd storey of west face; hollow-moulded and carved with large flowers in high relief. Approached from Paternoster Row by 19th century granite steps with stone rubble flanking walls having chamfered, dressed stone copings. Above the doorway is a worn, single-light window of the same stone; cinquefoil arch under a square head with hoodmould. South wall has second and 3rd-storey window in similar style, both probably restored: 3 lights in 2nd storey with carved heads terminating the hoodmould, 2 mullioned and transomed lights in 3rd storey, also with carved heads. In ground storey is a stone plaque commemorating the death of Thomas Lee junior, architect of the Guildhall, High Street, drowned while bathing in the sea at Morthoe on 5th September 1884. East wall has a small square stair window with restored hollow-moulded surround. Fixed to the corners and sides of the tower are 4 worn gargoyles, probably re-used. Crenellated parapet. Attached to the east side of the tower is a single-storeyed projection, possibly a 19th century boiler room. Main range has mid 19th century bell turret (without bell) at west end; cross, probably of similar date, at east end; both gables have kneelers, but no coping-stones. INTERIOR: entrance doorway to chapel/upper schoolroom has chamfered, pointed-arched stone surround with pyramid stops and hoodmould;19th century plank door with ornate iron hinges of uncertain date. Room inside has 14th century stone piscina with cinquefoil ogee arch; surround with quarter-round moulding and pyramidal stop. Plain waggon roof, unceiled. 19th century dado of chamfered planks. Fireplace with plain stone surround. 3 patterned iron ventilators in floor. 19th century desks with bases of reused 17th century balusters. Under west window is a black marble pedestal inscribed IOH: GAY POETA AMABILIS NATUS BARNSTAPOLIAE AD 1685 IN HAC SCHOLA EDUCATUS. OBIIT LONDONI AD 1732. The bust of Gay, shown in a late 19th century photograph, is missing. Ground storey has an axial ceiling beam on long chamfered pads supported by arch-braces and chamfered posts; latter have restored step-stops at base, convex ones at top. On display is a 17th century carved wood door and door-frame from a house in Castle Street. Stone staircase with stone parapet wall at top; 17th century panelling and door at bottom; borrowed light with chamfered stone frame. SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the ground surrounding the chapel (formerly part of the churchyard) is enclosed on the south and west sides by a stone rubble wall with a chamfered granite coping. Opposite the steps to the chapel this is built up into a pair of gate piers with chamfered corners and cap. Cast-iron gates with fleurs-de-lys and quatrefoil decoration. On the corner of Church Lane a similar gate without piers. The walls originally carried railings. Date listed: 19th January 1951. Date of most recent amendment: 29th September 1999.

Bridge, M., 2012, St Anne's Chapel, Paternoster Row, Barnstaple, Devon: Tree-Ring Analysis of Oak Timbers from the Roof and Crypt (Report - Scientific). SDV352391.

Six samples from timbers from both the roof and the crypt were dated and appear likely to be coeval. None retained complete sapwood, but a combined likely felling date range of AD 1317–43 was derived for these timbers, supporting the expected early fourteenth century date for the wagon roof and the spine beam structure in the crypt.

Cullen, B + Thompson, S, 2013, Joy Street, Green Lanes, Barnstaple, Evaluation, 5 (Report - Evaluation). SDV357185.

Friends of Archaeology ND, Unknown, Historic Barnstaple (Leaflet). SDV356772.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, Unknown, SS53SE15 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV91377.

Site visit 14th October 1953. A stone building consisting of chapel and under croft. Built about 1330. Door and large part of timber works are original. Porch and stairway date from about 1550. Still in use as a museum.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. 330.
SDV323771Monograph: Lysons, D. + Lysons, S.. 1822. Magna Britannica. Devonshire. Magna Britannica: A Concise Topographical Account of The Several Counties o. 6: Devonshire. Unknown. 36-37.
SDV336196Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1952. The Buildings of England: North Devon. The Buildings of England: North Devon. Paperback Volume. 47.
SDV336342Monograph: Oliver, G.. 1842. Ecclesiastical Antiquities in Devon Vol. 3. Ecclesiastical Antiquities in Devon. 3. Digital. 28.
SDV338879Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1855-1895. First Edition 1:500 Town Map. First Edition 1:500 Town Map. Map (Digital).
SDV341346Report - Survey: Timms, S. C.. 1976. The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft. Devon Committee for Rescue Archaeology Report. A4 Unbound + Digital. 71.
SDV347232Report - Assessment: Young, G. M.. 2010. Archaeological Recording at St Anne's Chapel, Paternoster Row, Barnstaple. Exeter Archaeology Report. 10.59. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #92388 ]
SDV348729National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2012. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV352256Report - non-specific: Cox, J.. 2011. St Annes Chapel, Paternoster Row, Barnstaple, Devon: A Conservation Management Plan for Barnstaple Town Council. Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants Report. K/787. A4 Spiral Bound + Digital.
SDV352391Report - Scientific: Bridge, M.. 2012. St Anne's Chapel, Paternoster Row, Barnstaple, Devon: Tree-Ring Analysis of Oak Timbers from the Roof and Crypt. English Heritage Report. 41-2012. A4 Grip Bound + Digital.
SDV352446Article in Monograph: Devon County Council. 1975. Barnstaple Town Trail. Devon Town Trails: European Architectural Heritage Year. Paperback Volume. 17.
SDV356766Un-published: Markuson, K. W.. 1980. Barnstaple Survey. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV356772Leaflet: Friends of Archaeology ND. Unknown. Historic Barnstaple. Leaflet + Digital.
SDV357185Report - Evaluation: Cullen, B + Thompson, S. 2013. Joy Street, Green Lanes, Barnstaple, Evaluation. Wessex Archaeology Report. 78942.03. Digital. 5.
SDV357319Cartographic: Gribble, J. B.. 1830. Barnstaple. Frontispiece to Memorials of Barnstaple. a4 single Sheet + Digital.
SDV360880Article in Serial: Harpley, W.. 1891. Report of the Council. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 23. Digital. 17.
SDV361542Article in Serial: Gaimster, M.. 2011. Post-Medieval Fieldwork in Britain and Northern Ireland in 2010: Devon. Post-Medieval Archaeology. 45. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV70734Article in Serial: Johnston, C.. 1867. St. Anne's Chapel. The Grammar School, Barnstaple. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 2. Unknown. 114-123.
SDV85818Article in Serial: Lomas, J.. 1967. The Old doors and Doorways of Barnstaple. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 99. Paperback Volume. 39.
SDV89941List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1973. Barnstaple. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound. 45.
SDV91375Article in Serial: Bracken, C. W.. 1934. The Huguenot Churches of Plymouth and Stonehouse.. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 66. Hardback Volume. 165.
SDV91377Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. Unknown. SS53SE15. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV91380Unknown: Lettaby, W. R.. 15/10/1912. Notice. Unknown.

Associated Monuments

MDV95982Related to: Wall around St. Anne's Chapel, Barnstaple (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6271 - Tree Ring Analysis of Oak Timbers from the Roof and Crypt of St Anne's Chapel
  • EDV6290 - St. Annes Chapel Conservation Management Plan

Date Last Edited:Jan 11 2024 10:33AM