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ST HILARY'S CHAPEL, DENBIGH

Site Details



NPRN 94724

Map Reference SJ06NE

Grid Reference SJ0522565904

Unitary (Local) Authority Denbighshire

Old County Denbighshire

Community Denbigh

Type of Site CHAPEL OF EASE

Broad Class RELIGIOUS RITUAL AND FUNERARY

Period Medieval

Site Description This is the tower of St Hilary's Chapel, a chapel of ease built in the walled upper town of Denbigh (NPRN 15235) in about 1300 and referred to as 'the chapel within the walls' in 1334. It was dependent on Whitchurch or Llanfarchell (NPRN 165339), 2.0km to the east. The chapel would presumably have been replaced by the Earl of Leicester's magnificent new church (NPRN 93307), had it been completed. Following the construction of St Mary's in 1874 (NPRN 308439) the chapel fell into disuse and all save the tower was demolished in 1923.
The chapel consisted of a five bay nave, north ailse and chancel, as well as the surviving west tower. Many of the original windows had been replaced by larger Perpendicular openings and the aisle had been rebuilt in the eighteenth century. The three stage tower stands 15m high with two light belfry openings on all four sides. It has a later, probably fifteenth century battlemented parapet with projecting gargoyles.

Sources: Butler 'Denbigh Castle, Town Walls & Friary' DoE guide (1976), 34-5
CADW Listed Buildings Database 969

John Wiles 07.03.08

The earliest school was a charity school recorded in the Reports of the S.P.C.K. as based in the crypt of St Hilary’s in 1711. This provided education for around 20 poor children, initially funded by the vicar of Denbigh, but possibly by the endowment of Mrs Oldfield as a Blue Coat School from 1714. From 1727 St Hilary’s became home to the Free Grammar School, supported through subscription to the borough corporation which funded both teaching materials and master. The school was noted in a report to the Charity Commission in 1837, and the conditions described by Mr H. Vaughan Johnson Esq. reporting on behalf of the Commission into the State of Education in Wales in 1847.

“It appears that it has been customary to hold the school in a species of crypt underneath the chancel of the parish Church at Denbigh…. It is in a wretched repair, the planks of the floor being broken, and the battering of the South wall, which is considerably below the level of the churchyard having been destroyed. This battering was constructed to prevent the ill effects of the damp from the churchyard, which caused disease amongst the scholars. The few articles of furniture which remained were in miserable condition. There are no outbuildings for the use of the school and none have ever existed.”
“I have since been informed by the later master the Rev. Hugh Owen, that the school was discontinued in June 12, 1846; that the chief cause of his resignation was the deplorable condition of the schoolroom; that the number of free scholars at the school was discontinued was 14 and the number of pay scholars (each at three guineas per annum), was 12, the average attendance having been 45-50.”

The school was again shut by the time of the Endowed Schools Enquiry Commission in 1865. Such conditions were not unrepresentative of the period, with the Commission’s report finding that only one-quarter of the grammar schools surveyed met the minimum acceptable standards i.e. ‘a good and well ventilated schoolroom, with at least one classroom, decent offices, a good masters house, a grass playground and a healthy and accessible site’.

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