Monday, April 25, 2011

Red Mount Chapel, King's Lynn

click photo to enlarge
" of the strangest Gothic churches in England."
Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983), architectural historian

The Red Mount Chapel in King's Lynn is a small pilgrimage chapel built in 1483-5 by Robert Curraunt for William Spynke, the Benedictine prior of Lynn. It was designed to be a stopping point for people travelling to Walsingham, England's second most important pilgrimage shrine after Canterbury. It provided religious support as well as material comforts for the travellers, and doubtless provided significant sums for the coffers of the priory church of St Margaret.

It is a brick built, octagonal structure with stone dressing, topped by a cruciform stone chapel with fan vaulting and panelled, pointed tunnel vaults. The building has three entrances, the main one giving access to the ground floor chapel. Above that is the priest's room, with the second chapel at the top. Two stairways run in opposite directions in the space between the outer brick walls and the inner rooms. The mound on which it was built may have been a Norman motte, but in later medieval times it was known as "the hylle called the Lady of the Mounte." The life of the chapel was quite short: it ceased to be a place of worship in 1530. In subsequent centuries it was used for water storage, as a study, an observatory and a stable. During the English Civil War it was a gunpodwer store! It's a wonder that it still exists, but the people of the town had it restored by public subscription in 1828, with further work in the 1920s and 1930s. Major repairs were undertaken in 2007 and today it is regularly open to the public. I saw it on a day when the town's medieval South Gate was also open.

When The Walks was created in the eighteenth century, and further extended as a public park in the nineteenth century (see previous post), the designers of this open space had no need to add a ruin, an eyecatcher or any other focal point around which to arrange their trees, water feature, seating and walks because it already existed in the form of this unique medieval chapel.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Main Photo
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 1250
Exposure Compensation: -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On