Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Biddlestone Chapel (NT955084)

© Copyright Les Hull and licensed for reuse 

The odd little edifice that is Biddlestone Hall Chapel has quite a history, but, remote though it is, it is bang in line with modern day life – for it is a remarkable example of architectural recycling. It is, of course, not at all odd that a building should be restructured and reused over the years, but Biddlestone Chapel is a nice little survival all the same, with an interesting story to tell.

First mention of a building on the site is in the shape of a fortified manor, or tower, house in 1415. By the 1600s, the original building was incorporated into a larger manor house, which was itself upgraded to a Georgian house c.1800 by the ruling Selby family. In about 1820, the Catholic-leaning family employed the famous architect John Dobson to convert the upper floors of one corner of their mansion into a chapel. The building we see today was the result of Dobson’s dabblings: a lofty and rather odd-shaped affair, with the bottom bits looking a good deal different than the upper extremities. Then, in typical Victorian fashion, the chapel’s interior was much altered in 1862.

The Selbys had been around this remote spot since, it is said, the early 14th century, but finally vacated Biddlestone in 1914, leaving their large Georgian house with chapel annex to fall into disrepair. During World War II the chapel’s tunnel-vaulted basement was converted into an air-raid shelter – though for what reason it is difficult to deduce. By the 1950s the ruin had become too much for anyone to take on as a viable concern and the decision was taken to demolish the main building – leaving the chapel standing tall and proud in its rather lonely situate. Shame, really, for the old mansion was believed to have been the model for Sir Walter Scott’s Osbaldistone Hall in Rob Roy.

Despite its periodic restructuring, the tower-cum-chapel-cum-air-raid shelter retains much of its medieval masonry and other ancient features, and is rather beautiful from whatever angle the visitor casts their gaze. The building has recently been re-vamped and still holds the occasional service and event.

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