Monksthorpe Chapel
Monksthorpe Chapel
A secluded late 17th-century Baptist chapel on the Gunby Hall estate. The chapel was built when the persecution of non-Conformists was at a feverish pitch. Worshipping according to Baptist beliefs was no longer a capital offence, but it was still a mighty dangerous business! Non-Conformists could be arbitrarily imprisoned, have their possessions confiscated, and face torture.

It was only safe for Baptists to meet in remote, isolated places, where their activities might pass unnoticed. This helps account for the secluded location of the Monksthorpe Chapel, surrounded by trees, and set in the middle of an acre of ground approached by a narrow country road.

The accepted date for the building of the chapel is 1701, but it seems clear that the site had been used for worship for several decades, perhaps beginning as early as 1669, so it is possible that there was an earlier building on the site. A tradition holds that a nearby tree is known as the 'Preaching Tree', an indication that there was regular worship here before the chapel was built.

Monksthorpe Chapel was built on land donated by Hugh Ayscough, who is, rather unusually, buried beneath the pulpit. It originally had a thatched roof and must have resembled a large farm building. That resemblance might well have been intentional, to disguise as much as possible the religious nature of the building. Local tradition suggests that during worship a small boy was stationed as a lookout high in the branches of a nearby tree, to keep a sharp lookout for officers of the law approaching.

The chapel was made redundant in the 1970s, but was rescued from decay by the East Midlands Baptist Association, and passed into the care of the National Trust in 2000.

Monksthorpe Chapel is a simple rectangular building with high gable ends, built of red brick. The original thatched roof was replaced by pantiles in 1847 when the interior was refurbished.

A full immersion outdoor baptistry (c) Richard Croft
A full immersion outdoor baptistry
(c) Richard Croft
18th and 19th century graves (c) Richard Croft
18th and 19th-century graves
(c) Richard Croft

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