History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Exceptional Tudor timber roof
Roger Bodenham was made a Knight of the Bath at the coronation of James I in 1603. He was Protestant, at least to all outward appearance, though his wife was recorded as being a recusant Catholic in 1587. But all that was to change in 1606, when Sir Roger developed leprosy. On the advice of his doctor he visited St Winifrid's Holy Well at Holywell, Flintshire, and bathed in the sacred waters. He was cured off his leprosy, and convinced by the miraculous cure to convert to Catholicism.
The story of Sir Roger's miraculous cure is depicted in a Victorian stained glass window in the south chapel.
The family returned to good fortune in the 18th century and Sir Charles Bodenham rebuilt the earlier manor house as a fashionable mansion in 1732 probably using James Gibbs as his architect. At the same time he constructed the striking west tower and spire of the chapel.
In 1884 Countess Irena Maria Bodenham called upon Peter Paul Pugin, son of the celebrated Victorian architect AW Pugin, to remodel the medieval chapel in Victorian Gothic style as a memorial to her husband, Sir Charles Bodenham, who had died the previous year. Sir Charles was reinterred in the south chapel, as was Countess Irena when she died in 1892.
Pugin was responsible for adding a vestry and confessional on the north side of the chancel, opposite a small chapel with a fireplace on the south side. He also added a polygonal apse at the east end, containing a beautifully carved gilded wood altarpiece.
The manor house was pulled down in 1926, but the chapel survived, and was taken under state guardianship. Services were held here during both World Wars for soldiers guarding the nearby munitions factory.
VisitingThe chapel is well signposted off The Straight Mile (B4399) just east of Hereford. Unfortunately, what the signposts don't tell you is that the chapel is normally locked. The key is easy to get, however; it is kept at the petrol station on The Straight Mile. I decided to walk from the chapel to stretch my legs, and it took me less than 10 minutes to walk from the chapel to the petrol station and fetch the key.
It pays to take your time exploring the interior and see where one time period ends and another begins. At first glance all you see is the Victorian embellishment but the more you look the more you begin to see signs of antiquity. The Tudor roof is simply outstanding, and I highly recommend climbing the steep stairs to the west gallery for a closer look.
There is a very useful information panel with a history of the chapel, and another with a floor plan and a transcription of the numerous grave slabs scattered about the chapel. These are mostly to the Bodenham family and date to the early 18th century.
I loved visiting the chapel; the interior is almost devoid of decoration save for the ornate wooden high altar, but the striking timber roof, the surviving medieval features, and the Victorian decorations make the chapel a memorable historic building.
About Rotherwas Chapel
Address: Chapel Road, Rotherwas, Herefordshire, England, HR2 6NR
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Off the B4399 (The Straight Mile) on the southern outskirts of Hereford, then left onto Chapel Road. Key from nearby petrol station. Open all year.
Website: Rotherwas Chapel
English Heritage - see also: English Heritage memberships (official website)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Herefordshire Light Infantry Museum - 1.3 miles (Museum)
Hereford Cathedral - 1.8 miles (Cathedral)
Hampton Bishop, St Andrew's Church - 1.9 miles (Historic Church)
The Old House - 1.9 miles (Historic Building)
Shipley Gardens - 2 miles (Garden)
Coningsby Medieval Museum - 2.1 miles (Museum)
Sufton Court - 2.3 miles (Historic House)
Cider Museum and King Offa Distillery - 2.3 miles (Museum)
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