hendred museum

History of the Museum

Champs Chapel Museum is a collection related to the history and memorabilia of East Hendred. It is housed in a Grade I listed Carthusian Chapel in Chapel Square, with a Reserve Store and display in Snells Hall. At Snells Hall there is also a recently erected home for the village 1831 horse drawn and hand powered Fire Pump.

The Chapel of Jesus of Bethlehem which houses village museum since mid-1970s and is generally known as 'Champ's Chapel' was originally built by the Carthusian monks in 1453.

Around 1415 a group of monks came to East Hendred from the Carthusian Monastery of Jesus of Bethlehem at Sheen, Surrey, to build on the land known as 'King's Manor' - one of the five manors that then made up the village. The land had belonged to the Abbey of Noyon in Normandy from the time of the Domesday survey until Henry V dispossessed foreign religious houses of their lands in England in 1414. The Manor was then granted, with some other land around the village, to the Carthusians from Sheen - a wealthy house, though one whose members practiced a life of exceptional austerity. Work started almost immediately, the monks building with pride in their newly acquired manor.

The precise original uses to which the chapel was put are not easily assessed, partly because of lack of early record and partly because of changes that have obscured the earlier relationships between the chapel and the other monastic buildings of 'King's Manor'. But by investigating general mediaeval church practices together with the remaining fabric of the building it is possible to make some guesses about how the chapel may have once related to both village and monastery.

The Church of St Augustine

The dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII brought change and the chapel was deconsecrated. Unlike most monastic buildings the roof was not removed and the building survives in almost its original format. It is a small rectangular building 25' 6" by 15' 3" internally. A half timbered priests house which adjoins it on the North side was added some 60 years later.

Chapel is built of rough ashlar (1974 renewals have been in Clipsham stone) and has a tiled roof. The East end window is of three lights with tracery. At the East end of each sidewall is a square-headed window of two cinque-foil lights. At the North side at the West end is a blocked doorway at first floor level to the Priests house. In the West wall is a four-centred doorway and above it a square-headed window of two cinque-foil lights. In the South wall is a small window blocked with bricks.

People milling about

Flanking the East window at a lower level, at each side of the original position of the altar, are two stone brackets for statues. There is an aumbry in the South wall. The Chapel is internally divided by an oak screen with a central doorway and five bays on either side with rounded heads. Three beams support a floor dividing the western part of the Chapel into two storeys.

There seems to be some doubt as to how much of the combined property the priest occupied while the chapel was in use. The upstairs portion of the chapel at the west end is screened off at the eastern end by a timber partition, at some time plastered, and was directly connected with the Priest's house built about 60 years after the chapel itself.

The Chapel, in 1585, is said to have been granted to Thomas Johnes and Richard Thomas. It was by then already profaned. John Sherwood claimed to hold the Johnes and Thomas interest by 1607.

The Champ family appear in the East Hendred church register from 1577. (Champe wills refer to them as substantial farmers who had a shop.) Richard Champe (senior) died in 1634 William Champ died in 1696. An earlier William Champe who died in 1690 was described in his will as a Mercer.

About 1690 the Priests house was extended farther East and it now overlaps the Chapel at the East end blocking the North Window The North window has had some of the tracery removed at some time, allegedly to provide access to a false floor installed across the building to make another bedroom inside the chapel itself. Extended again even later, at one time it was two cottages.

The chapel was used for varied purposes such as a pigeon house, a wash house and bake house as well as storage.

Mr George Dunn, brother to Mrs Eyston, bought the total property in the early 1900s. He used local builder Richard Stibbs for the renovation works which included a new roof to make the property weatherproof. On his death the property transferred to his sister and has been part of The Hendred Estate ever since.

Photographs of the outside of the building taken at the time of the 1900 restoration show a door set high in the East window presumably allowing access from the Pound for goods or even access to the pigeons alleged to have been bred there for eggs and food. . A view from the West taken around that time shows both the Chapel and the House next door, very derelict. That photograph shows the Priests House with two windows in the upper gable end. One of these was made up of three stone mullions.

During the 1900 restoration work the roof was made watertight and all the windows were unblocked. The plasterwork from the screen and internal partitions were removed, as was the temporary floor at the Eastern end. Restoration was not totally complete until 1970's when substantial timber replacement took place and stairs were installed. The Chapel is currently used as a museum by the East Hendred Heritage Trust.

Champs Chapel
Champs Chapel Museum is accredited by the Arts Council England
©2009 East Hendred Heritage Trust and Champs Chapel Museum, East Hendred, Oxfordshire
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