The Ridley Chapel

Beyond the south wall of the chancel is the Ridley Chapel. It dates from the early 16th century, and is the only later addition to the original plan of Sir Hugh de Calveley's collegiate church.

Sir Raufe Egerton, yet another distinguished soldier, and standard-bearer to Henry VIII, was knighted by the king for bravery in the French Wars. He was also presented with the manor of Ridley - centred on a tiny hamlet two miles south of Bunbury.

In order to perpetuate his line under the patronage of God, Sir Raufe decided to build a chantry chapel at Bunbury. It employed two chantry priests to pray for his soul, and the souls of his family. Sir Raufe also provided a chantry house, roofed in Welsh slate, for the priests to live in. The house still stands today, just to the south of the church.


Look at the wooden double doors with their intricately carved trellis work. Linenfold panelling, resembling draped cloth, survives on the lower half. On the reverse are carved the monograms of Sir Raufe and his wife Mary. What a labour of love these doors are.

 

The stone screen of the arcade, inside the chapel, retains much of its 16th-century painted decorations. They are some of the earliest Renaissance wall-paintings in the north of England.

Until the 17th century, Sir Raufe's marble chest-tomb with his name and arms upon it stood in the centre of the chapel. It was probably destroyed during the Civil War. Under the carpet a sandstone frame marks its original position. True to character, Sir Raufe also left full instructions for the stained glass, ornaments and statues. Two pedestals, still on either side of the altar, once held "two tabernacle gilt canopies for images". The two stained-glass roundels in one of the south windows are cadency marks - heraldic symbols that show the seniority of the bearer within the family.

The chapel was never finished It was still incomplete when Sir Raufe died in 1527, and only extensive instructions in his will allowed work to continue. But seven years after his death, Henry VIII became Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved the monasteries. Later, came the dissolution of parish church colleges and chantries, and the chapel fell into decay. As late as 1873, it "had become so dilapidated as to be perfectly unbearable, there being a hole in the roof producing intolerable draughts". Some repairs were made then, but it was not until 1894 that it was fully restored with a new roof and external parapet. That so much has survived is surprising.

Centre of Puritanism
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