Guide to the City of Derby

Derby Guide - Guide to the City of Derby in Derbyshire

Bridge Chapel

Chapel of St Mary on the Bridge in Derby

A short distance from the Cathedral standing beside the 18th century bridge over the River Derwent is the beautifully restored medieval St Mary's Chapel on the Bridge, still in use and worth a visit.

St Mary's Chapel is one of only six surviving bridge chapels in England, this one dates largely from the C14. Below the east wall can be seen the springing of the first arch of the replaced mediaeval bridge.

Records show of a bridge chapel in existence in the 13th century on the same site as the present building. It has had many uses during its 700 years' history, having been a couple of cottages, a prison, a Presbyterian meeting room and a carpenter's workshop at different times. It also gave spiritual reassurance to travellers who were about to set off on a possibly dangerous journey into the country beyond the Derwent.

In the 1920's the Chapel was a ruin. The Haslam family bought and restored it as a memorial to Sir Alfred Haslam. This restoration was thorough and carried out with great restraint. The Chapel was re-opened for worship in 1932 as an offshoot of the Cathedral. It now houses a flourishing congregation.

The external plainness does nothing to prepare the visitor for the interior. Though small, the Chapel has been much embellished since its restoration. There is a fine wooden statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, a modern window in coloured glass and a 15th century crucifix on the free-standing altar.

At the Reformation the Chapel was closed after which then nothing is recorded until July 1588. Two Roman Catholic priests were arrested at Padley manor and brought to Derby for trial on a charge of High Treason with another priest who was already in custody; all were convicted. After the men, now remembered as the Padley martyrs, had been hanged drawn and quartered, their remains were displayed at the entrance to the Chapel, which was then in use as a prison and in which they had spent their last night.

Chapel of St Mary on the Bridge  in Derby UK
Chapel of St Mary
Chapel of St Mary on the Bridge  in Derby UK
Chapel of St Mary
Chapel of St Mary on the Bridge  in Derby UK
Chapel of St Mary

As a result of work carried out in 1973 the Chapel now possesses much-admired stained glass in the east window. The panels, which were designed and made by Mary Dobson, depict various aspects of the Virgin Mary. There is also a strikingly simple stone altar designed by Ronald Pope.

It is open May to September, tuesdays and saturdays 2pm to 4pm. Booked groups welcome at oither times. Please call the cathedral office on 01332 341201 for details.

Derby Churches

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