Chapel of Saint Mary the Virgin – Nottinghamshire, England - Atlas Obscura
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Nottinghamshire, England

Chapel of Saint Mary the Virgin

English Protestants once criticized this enormous private chapel for being too ornate. 

This magnificent private chapel was built by the 7th Duke of Newcastle in 1889 as a private chapel for his country house, Clumber House. This grand building, which was built in the Perpendicular Gothic style, seems far too large to be a private chapel, and indeed it is larger than many local parish churches.

The Duke was a fervent Anglo-Catholic, and both the chapel’s design and the ornate opening ceremony conducted by the Bishop of Southwell reflected this. In fact, the church and its opening were so ornate that the Protestant Alliance, a group within the Church of England, wrote a letter of complaint to the Archbishop of Canterbury saying it was too “Roman.” In its letter, the group referenced “Popish emblems” and “superstitious services and illegal practices.”

The building is beautifully decorated and has some fantastic stained glass by Charles Eamer Kempe. It’s designed to take advantage of the natural light, so in the morning sunlight spills through the space before illuminating the stained glass.

The house the chapel was built to serve was damaged by fire in 1938 and was demolished with much of the remaining finery transported to Thornbridge Hall about 20 miles away. The magnificent parkland is now in the ownership of the National Trust, and the chapel stands as a reminder of more opulent times when a British aristocrat would and could choose to create a private chapel as fine as any English parish church.

Know Before You Go

Clumber Park is magnificent in its own right. It's well worth a visit, but the chapel is really the jewel in the crown. The chapel is open from March through January. The National Trust charge for parking anywhere in the park.

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