Duxford Chapel – work-in-progress

Known as the “Chapel of the Hospital of St John the Baptist”. The hospital, though documented, is not well documented, and exactly how close a relationship the hospital and chapel had, isn’t clear.

English Heritage lists the hospital as being documented in 1236. The chapel, as we know it, mostly dates from around 1337. This structure replaced an earlier one, and by this time the hospital was no longer in use.

The hospital was associated with Augustinian monastics. No association is known of between this and a nearby Templar (and later Hospitaller) community, though it seems that sometimes this site is misattributed to them. This confusion is understandable, as both hospital and Hospitallers take the same St John as part of their name.

Despite the monastic association, it was not a full-fledged monastery, so fell outside of the scope of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. After both rounds of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII set his sights on a dissolution of the Chantries, but he died before he could enact much of it. His son Edward VI enacted it, however, and Duxford Chapel fell afoul of this around 1548, and closed.

English Heritage’s history of the site mentions that the chapel is “said to have been unused for seven years”. After that, a warden of the church is listed as being granted a pension in 1553, and in 1554 the chapel’s contents were assessed as being a single bell.

Sometime after this (probably not very long, but no exact date has been listed), the establishment next door, the Red Lion Inn, started to use the chapel as a barn. When it stopped being used for this purpose does not seem to be documented, either.

The Ministry of Works purchased the chapel around 1947, and had restored it by 1954. English Heritage now looks after it.

The English Heritage page notes “There is so far no physical evidence of surrounding buildings or features that might confirm the chapel’s use as a hospital”, which is interesting.

Scour for more documentary evidence for above: try to locate the 13th-16th Century references, see what Heritage Gateway has, and so on. Pastscape did list a publication, but not reference its volume number or anything, I did find that (link below).

Duxford Chapel on English Heritage
EH’s History page for Duxford Chapel
Duxford Chapel on Pastscape
Duxford Chapel on Wikipedia

Volume 72 of the Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society (1984) has an article “Churches Out of Use in Cambridgeshire: 3. Excavations at St John’s Church, Duxford” by Faye and Robert Powell. This is available for download at the Archaeology Data Service.

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