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St Edmund's Chapel
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Image:  The restored chapel.
The restored chapel.

Near to the Maison Dieu the monks of the Priory of St Martin established a cemetery for the poor with its own small chapel. The chapel, dedicated to St Edmund, was consecrated on 30 March 1253 by Bishop Richard of Chichester . St Richard had always wanted to dedicate a chapel to St Edmund, who had been his friend. The fulfilment of this wish was one of Richardís last acts as he died four days later in the Maison Dieu. After his death Richardís body was returned to the chapel to be Ďevisceratedí (have the internal organs removed) in preparation for the journey to Chichester Cathedral to be buried. The viscera were buried in the chapel altar and both places later became places of pilgrimage.

The chapel was dissolved along with the Maison Dieu in 1544. Its history since then is only sketchily known. Immediately after the dissolution, it was probably still associated with the fortunes of the Maison Dieu and became part of a victualling store for the Navy. After that it became a store-house for the shops which came to be built in Biggin Street. In the middle of the nineteenth century it was converted into a two-floor building, and became a dwelling-house and forge.

In 1943 artillery shells destroyed the two shops hiding the chapel on the Priory Road side, leaving the chapel itself untouched. Attempts to get it scheduled as an Ancient Monument in 1963 failed and it was scheduled for demolition. In 1965, however, it was privately purchased and restored in 1967-8. At least 75 percent of the building seen today is original.

 

 


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