On a beautiful autumn Sunday morning (16th of September), around 20 members and guests assembled at Widmere Farm to be met by Dr Rachel Brown. Rachel was born on the farm which is now owned by her brother, John White. The farm building incorporates the Chapel and its Crypt.
One accesses the Crypt down a flight of wooden stairs. The Crypt is larger than one expects and, as it is painted white, it is lighter than expected too; the columns/pillars support a series of gentle arches. The two recesses at the western end would have been ideal for housing caskets/coffins of important people. If this was the case, they are long gone.
The Crypt experienced many uses, including being a dairy in relatively recent times.
After exiting the Crypt and closing the hatch, our group entered the ground floor of the chapel and then climbed into the upper floor, where Rachel explained that there had previously been a ceiling hiding the extensive network of mediaeval beams and timberwork.
The east window is impressive and appears to have been renovated some time in the past, as it appears Gothic, but shows traces of an earlier window. There is also an egg shaped recess about 3 foot high, which may have housed a statue (probably of the Virgin Mary).
The ground floor was probably covered with approximately 2,500 decorative tiles (probably made at Penn). Worn remnants, and a pristine tile found nearby, indicate they date from the mid-fourteenth century.
Outside there is a bell attached to the east wall and a substantial chimney breast protruding from the north wall, which contains bricks laid at a 30 degree angle.
Allegedly, there is a connection with the Knights Templar order. It would seem that they might have built the Chapel, or that it was possibly a Saxon Chapel modified later in Norman times.
Tile identification would indicate that further changes took place in mediaeval times and continued on and off up until recent times.
This visit was most enlightening and proved to be a great experience for all – such an old and important building right on our doorsteps!
Thank you Rachel; your hospitality, expert guidance and your deep knowledge of this important relic of our past were much appreciated by all.