Welcome to the Minster Church of All Saints Rotherham.
There has been a church on this site since 937 AD. Much of the present building dates from the 15th century although there are parts remaining from the Saxon and Norman structures.
It has been described by Pevsner as "the best perpendicular church in the country", and by Simon Jenkins in Englands 1000 Best Churches as "the best work in the county".
Rotherham Minster All Rights Reserved ©2009
Chapel of our lady on the bridge
The Chapel of Our Lady on the Bridge is one of only four surviving medieval bridge chapels in the country. It has enjoyed a long and chequered history, and is truly a hidden gem right in the heart of Rotherham.
The chapel was built in 1483, part of a new bridge across the River Don. We can date it from the will of a local teacher called John Bokying. In 1483 he left "3s.4d. to the fabric of the chapel to be built on Rotherham Bridge." It is possible that Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York, donated most of the money needed for building. The chapel was richly decorated and contained a statue of the Virgin and Child "of gold, welwrought". In November 1485 Arnold Reresby of Thrybergh left "6s.8d. to the glassing of a window".
The chapel was used by travellers, who used it to pray for a safe journey, or to give thanks for a safe arrival in Rotherham. The Act for the Dissolution of Colleges and Chantries in 1547 closed the Chapel. It was given to the Feoffees of the Common Lands of Rotherham, Rotherham's first town council. By 1595 the Chapel had been converted into an almshouse, and as such was a constant charge on the Feoffees. It only survived because it was an integral part of the bridge - without the chapel, the bridge would fall down!
By the 1680's the Chapel was almost a ruin. Some repairs in 1681 were made but very little more is known about the chapel or bridge until the bridge was enlarged in 1768 when the river channel was widened. In 1778 work began on converting the almshouse to a prison. The work cost £136, and was completed by 1779. Deputy Constable John Watson lived upstairs, whilst the crypt became the jail. When a new courthouse and jail opened in 1826 the chapel was rented as dwelling house.
In 1888 the Chapel opened as a tobacconist and newsagents. The business continued undisturbed until 1901, when a petition signed by almost 1000 Rotherham residents was presented to the Feoffees, urging them to restore the Chapel. The tobacconist's was bought in 1913 by Sir Charles Stoddart, and closed down. He died before the restoration could be completed. The vicar and churchwardens of All Saints undertook to finish the repairs and restoration. The chapel was finally completed in 1924. Further work was carried out in 1975, when the fine new east window was added.
The Chapel is used for worship every Tuesday morning at 11.00 am when a service of Holy Communion is held.
Description of the East Window in The Chapel of Our Lady on Rotherham Bridge.
A feeling of landscape, silhouettes of hills and sky, water (representing the River Don) and reflections runs horizontally across the window, linking the ideas developed in each light. Shapes suggesting the four arches of the bridge appear in the base of the lights and against these are placed various heraldic devices to chronicle some of the more remarkable historic events closely connected with Rotherham Bridge.
To suggest the 500 or so years in which the bridge has played such an important role in the daily lives of the people of Rotherham, the colour effect in each light may be thought of as symbolising a particular season in the annual cycle. At the top of each light is a white abstract shape (in light 2 the Dove) linking the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These shapes suggest light and energy the mystery of God present throughout the chequered history of the Chapel.
Reading from left to right.
In light 1 Spring
In the base the blue shapes suggest the river and the ford, before the days of the bridge, and the shell symbolises the welcome given to travellers and pilgrims as they crossed the town . The centre of the light contains a seed-shape above the arch of the new bridge (on the bridge are faintly shown the initials JB, for John Bokyng, Grammar Master who left money in his will), and this seed embraces the Arms of Thomas Rotherham to symbolise his important role in founding the College, assisting with the building and rebuilding of the Chapel and the profound effect this had on the later development of the town.
In Light 2 Summer
The colours suggest flowering (the development of the town) and the Golden Chalice symbolises the Chapel above the span of the bridge. Immediately above is a dove shape, symbolising the blessing of God on this Chapel, linking with the other six shapes (described later), but it may be thought of as the light which was lit each evening on the bridge to guide travellers into the town. Below the Chalice are the Arms of the Swift family (who produced one of the earliest of the Town Feoffees. These Arms appear on the Badge -of-Office of the Greave of the Feoffees of the Common Lands off Rotherham) which refers to the Feoffees and their Charter, while in the base is the Coat-of Arms and the letter M for Mary, Queen of Scots who spent two days in Rotherham on her way to Tetbury in 1569.
In light 3 Autumn
The colours mature and the seated figure of Our Lady holding the Infant Christ celebrates the Chapel being dedicated to her and is a reminder of the original image, before the sackings after the Dissolution of the Colleges and Chantries in 1547. Below are heraldic devices for the Royalist and Parliamentary forces who fought on the bridge in the Civil War in 1643. A crown above the Arms of the Earl of Newcastle and a Cromwellian helmet above the Arms of General Fairfax. The Arms of Charles 1 and CI appear below to record his stay in Rotherham, on the journey to London, before his execution.
In light 4 Winter
The colours are cooler and bleaker suggesting the many years when the Chapel was in a ruinous condition and later continued its degraded life as town jail and shop (the portcullis in the base records this). In contrast the golden cluster of fleur-de-lis, for Our Lady, symbolises the rebirth, restoration and reconstruction in 1924. Below are the present Borough Arms and adjoining a shield containing the initials CS, for Sir Charles Stoddart, who had the shop closed and left money for the restoration. (The Red and Gold, together with the Blue and Silver of the background being the colours of the Christs Hospital Arms, which Sir Charles attended as a student).
© Alan Younger.
Reproduced with the kind permission of Mrs Zoe Younger.
The Chapel will be open by the Friends of Rotherham Chapel on the Bridge on the following dates during 2016
19th March 11.00 14.30
16th April 11.00 14.30
21st May 11.00 14.30
11th June 11.00 14.30
25th June 11.00 14.30
16th July 11.00 14.30
20th August 11.00 14.30
17th September 11.00 14.30
15th October 11.00 14.30
19th November 11.00 14.30
17th December 11.00 14.30
For more details see https://www.facebook.com/Friends-of-Rotherham-Chapel-on-the-Bridge