Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Jesus Chapel Ackworth

I began preparing this post in 2012 to mark the the 160th anniversary of the death of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Time and computer problems have caused several delays, but I thought I would try to finally get it completed and published to coincide with the publication of Gerard Hyland's new book on Pugin, about which I posted in An important new book on Pugin.

Pugin was in the news quite a lot in that anniversary year - indeed he appears fairly regularly. It was been the bicentenary of his birth on March 1st 1812, and interest has not been confined to England as can be seen in  Pugin Bi-Centenary Celebrations in Australia. There was also been the happily averted sale of church furnishings from Ramsgate Abbey. They have been saved and returned to the church Pugin designed there and where he is buried. The current state of his creation at Ramsgate is described by Fr Blake in Pugin Bi-Centenary Mass, and the recent designation of St Augustine's as the official shrine of its patron saint is recounted in Pugin’s Church Becomes Official Shrine of St Augustine on New Liturgical Movement. From what I gather that appears to be progressing very well indeed as an initiative.

The following story about another of Pugin's churches has, alas, no such happy ending, but is rather an account of the destruction of one of his earlier works, and the scattering of its furnishings. Where possible I am giving references for those who want to look further into the history of the building.

2011-12 was also the 170th anniversary of the building of the Jesus Chapel at Ackworth Grange near Pontefract, which was designed by  Pugin, and tragically demolished in 1963. Although an early and important work by Pugin, and one with which he himself was pleased, the chapel is not well covered in the more recent books on him, and even its date of destruction often, and inaccurately, given as 1966.
I can date it as I remember going as a grammar school boy in the early summer of 1963 to look at the very recently demolished remains - a pile of masonry rubble on the foundations and still crowned by the chancel arch, looking very like a pair of whale bones as they might be displayed in a public park. Some of my schoolmasters lodged at the house and we were invited out to see the remains of the recently demolished chapel. Together with my mother I rescued a couple of bits of carved stone which years later, in 1995, I gave to the local museum in Pontefract. 

Gavin Stamp in his Lost Victorian Britain refers to the chapel as an "exquisite creation" (p99), and all the evidence appears to justify that description. 

Ackworth Grange itself had been built circa 1800, and was listed as Grade II in 1968 - too late for the chapel. The house had been purchased by the Tempest family in 1836. The Tempests of Broughton near Skipton are amongst the leading recusant families in Yorkshire with a history of witness to the Catholic faith from 1536 when one member of the family, Nicholas, was executed after the Pilgrimage of Grace.

 Ackworth Grange with the Jesus Chapel and an interior view

Image supplied by G.J.Hyland

There is a similar photograph showing the house and chapel at Ackworth Grange in Paul Atterbury and Clive Wainwright (eds.) Pugin: A Gothic Passion (Yale UP in connection with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1994) 

The chapel was built by George Myers (vide Patricia Spencer-Silver  George Myers - Pugin's Builder  2nd edn Gracewing 2010). Pugin drew up his proposal, for a new chapel and a Master's lodging and school (this, I think, still stands in East Hardwick and facing the Pontefract - Barnsdale Bar road. The back road to the house leaves the main road by the house. At the back of the house is what looks, from the outside, like a schoolroom), and is referred to the text of Pugin's letters from vol ii of The Collected Letters of A.W.N. Pugin ( Edited with notes and an introduction by Margaret Belcher. OUP 2001). 

Rosemary Hill in God's Architect links it to the still surviving church at Kenilworth and it can be seen in the foreground of the famous engraving of the massed ranks of Pugin's church designs.


Pugin's churches
The Jesus Chapel is in the foreground at bottom left


The chapel was completed in 1842 and received its certificate for religious worship at the Pontefract Sessions in April 1844.

Jesus Chapel

The Jesus Chapel near Pomfret by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852)
An illustration from The Present State of Ecclesiastical Architecture, facing p. 101


In The Present State of Ecclesiastical Architecture in England, published in 1843, Pugin describes the chapel as follows on pp 96-7:

" This edifice has been erected by Mrs Tempest,  who resides at The Grange, near Pomfret, to serve as a private chapel to the mansion with which it communicates by means of a cloister on the north side. It consist of a nave, chancel, chantry chapel containing afamily vault, and a sacristy;....The architecture is taht of the decorated period, and to the smallest details has been carefully and faithfully revived from original aothorities. The niches on each side of the chancel window contain images our Blessed Lady and the angel Gabriel, and the Holy Trinity in the centre niche of the gable. A belfry for the Sanctus erescted on the eastern end of the nave, and a foliated cross on the centre of the west gable. A massive and deeply moulded arch leads ffrom the nave to the chancel, across which an oak screen of open panels, surmounted bty a rood has been erected. The roof of the nave is waggon headed, divided by and divided intocompartments by the principals of the roof, which are again subdivided by moulded ribs into panels, diapered in colours. The ceiling of the chancel is arched, also divided into compartments by ribs, but of a richer character than those of the nave; at each intersection is a boss, carved with emblems of the passion and other devices;and from each of these spring four foliage cusps, corresponding to the angle of the panel. The relieved portion s of this ceiling are pricked out in gold and colour; the field is painted azure, powdered with stars and suns. all the windows are filled with stained glass; those of the nave contain figured quarries, rich borders and quatrefoils filled with sacred emblems; in the east window of the chantry, the centre light is filled with an image of our Ladye with our Lord under a canopy, and a serpent crushed beneath her feet: the other two lights contain the emblems of the four Evangelists, and the holy name in bordered quatrefoils. The upper part of the window is filled with angels, holding labels and scriptures.
       The east window of the chancel contains the crucifixion of our Lord, the adoration of the wise men, and the resurrection, with appropriate scripture. The side widow of the chantry chapel is filled with armorial bearings of the tempest family. On the Gosel side of the chancel is avery ornamented niche, which is also open towards the chantry, and within it a high tomb to serve for the sepulchre art Easter. Immediately opposite to this are the sedilia,with crocketed canopies and pinn, and a sacrarium of the same ornamental character. The front of the principal altar is divided into five compartments and niches, with crocketed gablets, and each containing an image. the altar of the chantry is plain, and hung with a frontal of velvet, relieved with gold embroidery. Ech alatr is furnished with apair of candlesticks and acrucifix on standing crosses. Curtains of silk are suspended on projecting rods on each side of the chancel altar, andon the upper steps are placed two high standards for the elevation candles. There is also a suspended lamp to burn before the blessed sacrament. The flooring of the chancel and chantry are laid with incrusted tiles of various patterns, similar to those with which the ancient chueches were originally paved; and in all respects this chapel presents a very faithful revival of a small religious edifice of the fine period of Edward the Third. "


The interior of the chapel  - a plate from The Present State of Ecclesiastical Architecture

Image supplied by G. J.Hyland

Mrs Elizabeth Tempest had been born on 21st December 1766, the second daughter and co-heiress of Henry Blundell of nce Blundell, Lancashire - another famous recusant family, of whom there is more here. On 1st May 1787 she married Stephen Tempest of Broughton Hall, Skipton, the son of the author of the Religio Laici; so two old recusant families were linked. By the nineteenth century the family was of some standing and able to maintain a domestic chaplain and a school for associates of the household.

Stephen died, aged 68, on 28th November 1824. Elizabeth survived her husband by over twenty years, dying aged 78 on 25th April 1845. They had a large family of 13 children, although only 7 out-lived their mother. Their son Thomas took holy orders and a daughter, Frances, became a nun. Their third son, Charles Robert Tempest (1794-1865), who served as High Sheriff of Yorkshire, inherited the Broughton estate, but died unmarried and the estate devolved to his next brother’s family. This line of the Tempest family still live at Broughton.

The chapel at Broughton  is "Gothick" rather than Pugin's scholarly gothic in style, but is also dedicated to the Sacred Heart, so it may have inspired the choice of patronage. The conscious choice of Pugin is perhaps  interesting given the age of Elizabeth Tempest when she commissioned the chapel. The family was clearly conscious of their medieval and recusant heritage. By at least the early 1840s when she commissioned the chapel and at  the time of her death in 1845 Elizabeth was living at Ackworth Grange. She was buried in the  Jesus Chapel. I assume this burial and that of others of the family was in the chantry on the north side of the structure.

The memorial brass for Elizabeth Tempest was also designed by Pugin and engraved in 1847 by the firm of John Hardman of Birmingham at a cost of £67. Closely based on medieval examples it shows her as a widow holding a model of the Jesus Chapel. She stands under a single canopy, with the families’ arms in the occulus, surmounted by a cross. Two scrolls with the prayer ‘Jesu mercy’ and a foot inscription seeking prayers for the souls of Elizabeth and her husband Stephen complete the composition. 

The brass of Elizabeth Tempest 

Image: MBS

Following the demolition of the chapel at Ackworth  the brass with its slab somehow found their way to Ampleforth College and from there was eventually taken to Broughton Hall. The slab had become badly broken and was disposed of, and the brass resided in pieces in an outbuilding for some years. The present owner, Mr Henry Tempest, was finally persuaded to have the brass conserved and mounted on a board. In 1994 the brass was lent to the Victoria and Albert Museum for display in their exhibition devoted to Pugin. Eventually the brass was mounted on a board on the wall of the Tempest chapel in St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic church in Skipton, where there are also other later effigial brasses to members of the Tempest family. The church website has pictures and background and can be viewed here.

Acknowlegements to Patrick Farman's article for the Monumental Brass Society January 2006 brass of the month.This includes a detail of the depictieon of the chapel being held in Mrs Tempest's hands.

Pugin may have been responsible for, or inspired, the tiled floor in the house which had gothic capital Ts for Tempest in golden yellow on ared or blue background as I recall it.

The decline in the fortunes of the Chapel began in 1920 with the building of the Catholic church of Our Lady of Lourdes (itself recently closed by the diocese) which was established on June 6th that year in Ackworth, near where the parishioners lived - the Grange is about three quarters of a mile from the village. Hitherto the chapel had acted as the parish church, but by 1927 it was described as closed. The Grange was then the home of Wilfrid Francis Tempest, esq. J.P.

Kelly's Directory of that year describes the chapel as follows:

"The Roman Catholic church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and attached to the Grange, was erected in 1840 [sic], and is a building of stone in the Gothic style, consisting of chancel, nave, north porch and a belfry containing one bell: all the windows are stained, and there is a finely carved stone altar and tomb, designed by Pugin: in the church are brasses to Stephen and Elizabeth Tempest (1814), John Tempest (1831) and Mary Coulthurst (1836); a memorial tablet in Caen stone and black marble to Agnes Mary Tempest (1885); also a brass tablet to the memory of Wilfred Norman Tempest, 2nd Batt. King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, killed in France, Sept. 25, 1916: the church is now closed for public services."

I gather that the monstrance from the chapel was at the Church of Holy Family in Chequerfield at Pontefract - but that was another church closed in recent years. I think I heard or read that the vestments went to the new church in Ackworth - but I may have imagined that. That I suppose was in 1920 or thereabouts.

After the Second World War the Tempests sold the property and moved away, and as the first picture shows the property, both house and chapel, decayed.

I understand that it was in 1959 that the high altar was taken to the historic Anglican parish church at Campsall, a few miles away. I was told it was transported on a farmer's flat cart. Today, its colouring somewhat faded it can still be seen in the south transept of the church.

I also understand that the statues from the church went to the relatively new church of St Leonard and St Jude at Scawsby, north of Doncaster, and on the A635, Barnsley Road. In 1963 I was told that the glass went to Durham cathedral, but on my visits there I have not identified it. That was when the then owners demolished the chapel. The main reason appears to have been the lack of any grant aid to maintain it.

In 1963 as I said I rescued afew pieces of carved stonework in an ogee design. Looking at the photograph of the interior and recalling where I found them they must have been portions of the sedilia. These I gave in 1995 to the Wakefield MDC Museums service. When I visted the Grange some years later - probably 1966 or 67 the rubble and been tidied away but there was still some window tracery there left from the destruction of the chapel.


Ackworth Grange today
The chapel adjoined the house to the left


With thanks to the assistance of Dr Gerard Hyland of the Pugin Society,  and the Eminence Grise for technical assistance. 

1 comment:

Henry Sire said...

Re: Ackworth

I too was once a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford, but I am not clever enough to detect your name in your blog. However, I am glad to see that you are a follower of Fr Hunwicke, an old friend of mine. I am writing to ask if you know when the Tempests sold Ackworth Grange. Wilfrid Francis Tempest died, aged 94, in 1941, an unpropitious time for the old gentry, and I believe he left at least one son. Was he the seller, and when?

Henry Sire.