A look at the history of Lotherton Chapel, with Dr Emma Wells

in Aberford

Tucked away near to the mansion known as Lotherton Hall, the rurally situated Edwardian stately home located near Aberford, and part of an estate now belonging to Leeds City Council, this tiny chapel dedicated to Saint James is possibly the smallest in all of West Yorkshire. But it was meant to be. Comprising a simple two-cell structure in uncoursed rubble, the chapel has actually been truncated so wasn’t always this small, but it was constructed only to house local residents. This was, in fact, a chapel of ease, for the worship of locals so they weren’t forced to trek the 3 miles to the parish church of Sherburn in Elmet.

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The chapel likely dates to the 12th century but features a 13th or 14th century bellcote and was later restored in the early 20th century for Colonel and Mrs Gascoigne of the nearby Hall under the expert hand of architectural historian John Bilson and the Lotherton Estate mason, George Garbutt.

The work actually aided the structure, removing a thick layer of external plaster, apparently so thick that it disguised the priest’s doorway from view. One of the most significant architectural elements is sited over the chancel arch where a painted rood (image or figure of the crucifixion with St John the Evangelist and Virgin Mary) can be found designed by the great Gothic revival architect Sir Ninian Comper in memory of the soldiers treated at the Hall which was transformed into a military hospital during World War I. There is similarly a tablet memorial to a pilot killed in a plane crash within the grounds of the Hall.

Open to visitors, the chapel remains consecrated and holds sporadic services throughout the year.

Books by Dr Emma Wells

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