Gate-, bridge- and causeway-chapels have received scant study. There are no adequate works of synthesis, and very few cases of excavation, detailed architectural survey or documentary investigation. Most of the available information comes from a miscellaneous and widely scattered range of primary and secondary historical records, topographical studies, maps and illustrative sources.
Some examples appear to have been timber-built; little is known of them, and none have survived. Stone-built examples may be single-cell structures, two-cell structures with nave and chancel, or in some cases even include a tower. Their size was often limited by their cramped siting, and few examples would be much larger than 20m x 5m. The plan-form could be used as a basis for morphological classification, but what is probably a more useful distinction between types can be defined on the basis of variations in date, function, and siting:
Type A: Pre-Conquest gateside churches with parochial functions: Several of the burhs built by West Saxon royal authority in the south and south midlands of England have or had churches immediately adjoining their gates. At Wareham (Dorset) the 11th-century nave and chancel of the church of St Martin by the entry through the north ramparts still stands (RCHME Dorset, Vol.2 pt.ii, 1970, 312; Taylor & Taylor, Vol.2, 1965, 637-9); unfortunately the west end has been rebuilt, and it is not possible to see whether this was directly connected to the town defences. At Oxford the 11th-century tower of St Michael by the North Gate also remains (RCHME Oxford, 1939, 142; Taylor & Taylor, Vol.1, 1965, 481-2), and the remaining three main entrances to the original burh also had churches immediately adjacent (St Michael at the South Gate, demolished; St Peter le Bailey, demolished and rebuilt on a different site in 1894; St Mary the Virgin, left within the town by an extension of the walled area, but wholly rebuilt after the late 13th century). The church of St Mary immediately on the west side of the north gate of Cricklade (Wilts) is on the site of a Saxon chapel; it does not appear to have become a parish church before the 14th century (Thompson & Taylor, 1975). Even the small burh of Lyng (Somerset) which had no urban pretensions, has a church at the entry-point through its defences, though the present building is wholly of late medieval date. As most of the gate-churches of pre-Conquest origin appear to have exercised parochial functions, they lie towards the margins of this class of monument as defined; however, they clearly have a significant bearing upon the origins of this class, and are therefore taken into account in the following discussion.
Type B: Pre-Conquest churches with parochial functions built directly over gates:
This type is known at present only from Canterbury, where at least three of the town gates had churches over them, which served as the centre of wards or berthae before c.1050: St Mary's church above Northgate, St Michael's Church above Burgate and Holy Cross church above Westgate; of these only the first survives in part. It is possible that these churches occupied the upper chambers of the Roman gates. To these can probably be added St George's church above Newingate, St Edmund's church above Ridingate and St Mary's church above Worthgate, all of which had been superseded by new buildings near, but not directly above, the gates by c.1200. The church of St Mary Northgate, rebuilt in the twelfth century and subsequently, still incorporates a substantial part of the Roman town wall including the crenellations in the north wall of its nave, but the chancel which spanned the actual gate was demolished, with the gate itself, in 1830 (Tatton-Brown, 1982, 101-2).
Type C: Post-Conquest churches with parochial functions built directly over gates:
Four of the seven medieval gates of the innermost circuit of town defences of Bristol were linked with churches: St Nicholas's Gate to the south, St Leonard's Gate to the west, St Giles's Gate to the north-west, and St John's Gate at the north. Of these only St Giles seems not to have been associated with a city parish. There is no documentary, archaeological or architectural evidence that any of them were of pre-Conquest origin; the defensive circuit incorporating them is thought to have been built by Geoffrey of Coutances in the 12th century. St Nicholas, first recorded in 1148-53, may originally have been on the quayside outside the town walls, but was rebuilt in c.1250 as part of the town defences; the medieval church and gate were pulled down in 1762, but the rebuilt church incorporates the 14th-century crypt of its predecessor. St Leonard's is first recorded in 1153-4 and was demolished in 1771. St Giles is first recorded in 1285, demolished in 1319. St John's is first recorded in 1291; it was rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries and still stands, with the town gate beneath the tower.
Similar churches existed in a number of other towns. At Winchester the parish church of St Swithun, first recorded in 1264, still stands over the three arches of King's Gate (the present structure is mostly 14th-15th century), and there is documentary evidence between c.1249 and c.1452 for another parish church dedicated to St Mary which formerly stood over the North Gate. At Ilchester (Somerset) St Michael's Church is documented as standing over the medieval south gate.
Type D: Chapels without parochial functions, built directly over town gates: The chapel of St Michael which formerly stood over the East Gate of Winchester is first recorded c.994, and may be the earliest example of a non-parochial chapel built directly over a town gate; it was closed shortly after 1148.
Two gate chapels survive in Warwick. St James's Chapel over the West Gate existed by 1153, and was granted as a chantry chapel served by two chaplains by the Earl of Warwick in 1383 as a foundation endowment for the Guild of St George the Martyr. Derelict after the Dissolution, it was granted in 1571 to the Earl of Leicester for his new hospital foundation, and it remains in use as the hospital chapel. The gate and chapel were both rebuilt in the 14th century; the chapel is a single-cell structure c.16m x 5m internally, extended westwards in the 15th century by the addition of a tower 3.8m x 4m internally. This was largely rebuilt in the 18th century and further restored in the 19th century. At the other end of the town, St James's Chapel over the East Gate was built c.1426, probably to replace an earlier parish church which had been absorbed into
St Mary's College. A chantry priest was maintained there by the Guild of Warwick in 1545. In c.1700 it was converted to school use. The 15th-century chapel was rebuilt in 1788 (VCH Warwicks.VIII, 420, 532, 534).
At Langport (Somerset) the former Gild Chapel of St Mary, known as the Hanging Chapel, is a plain 15th-century structure consisting of a single rectangular cell built over a barrel-roofed archway spanning the road, probably on or close to the east gate of the Saxon burh ; there is no indication of a Saxon predecessor. An external stairway gives access to the west door of the chapel, which has a triple-light east window, two double-light windows on the north and one on the south. A doorway in the middle of the south wall gives access to a room on the south side at a lower level, and there is a third doorway at the south-western corner, now blocked (VCH Somerset, III, 35-6).
Many other examples have now disappeared. There seems to have been a chapel dedicated to St Mary over the East Gate of Southampton. In Cambridge there was a chapel over the barbican gate of the castle, and in York a chapel formerly stood above the north-west gate into the cathedral precinct.
Type E: Post-Conquest churches and chapels built alongside town gates:
Functionally these are similar to Types B, C and D, but like Type A they are independent structures and may survive archaeologically even where the gate itself has disappeared.
At Winchester the Chapel of St Mary by the West Gate was in existence by the 12th century; the chancel was accommodated partly beneath and east of the city wall on the north side of the gate, the nave extended westwards from the gate and wall. It was originally a chapel within St
Martin's parish, but served as a parish church up to the early 15th century. It was converted to domestic occupation by 1606 and was pulled down before 1658. In Exeter there were churches dedicated to St Cuthbert just inside the North Gate and to the Holy Trinity just inside the South Gate. Gateside churches also occurred outside Wessex: several gates at Chester were flanked by churches or chapels.
Type F: Bridge Chapels: Bridges built after the 12th century as a public benefaction were sometimes associated with a chapel, where the founder endowed a chantry for himself and his family. The chapel was frequently built on a starling or extended pier to one side of the bridge, as at Wakefield (W.Yorks.), but occasionally spanned the entire width of the bridge. At Droitwich (Heref.& Worc.) a chapel newly built of timber at the town end of the bridge over the River Salwarpe is mentioned by Leland in the 16th century. It is described by the county historian Habington in the 17th century as having the main road passing through the middle of it, 'a thinge rarely seene'. This impression is confirmed by the 18th-century historian Nash, who describes how "the public road with horses and carts passed through the chapel, the congregation sitting on one side of the road, the priest on the other". This bizarre structure was pulled down in 1763.
Three or four bridge chapels survive today. The earliest and finest surviving example is on the bridge over the River Calder at Wakefield (W.Yorks.). This was first licensed in 1357. Edward III made a grant of £10 a year for perpetual masses there, and in 1398 Edmund Langley, Duke of York, endowed a chantry there. The chantry certificate of 1546 shows that this had an additional use, namely as a place where divine service could be held for the sick in times of plague, so that the rest of the parishioners could continue to use their parish church without fear of infection. The chapel appears to date from c.1360, and is three bays long, with a stair-turret at its north-east corner giving access down to a crypt sacristy below the easternmost bay. It was heavily restored by Gilbert Scott in 1848; its original west front, of five bays with three doorways, was moved to Kettelthorpe Hall, where it now does duty as the facade of the boathouse by the lake (Cook, 1968, 56).
The bridge at St Ives (Hunts.), built c.1415, retains a stone chapel built out from the third pier from the town end, with a semi-hexagonal apse.
The bridge chapel at Rotherham (W.Yorks.) is referred to in the will of the master of the town grammar school, and was begun in c.1483. It is much plainer than the Wakefield chapel, of two bays, with a tunnel-vaulted crypt below; it was restored in 1924.
The only other extant example popularly recognised is, in fact, so much modified that its status is questionable. What is presumed to have been a medieval chapel on Bradford-on-Avon bridge (Wilts) was rebuilt in the seventeenth century with a domed roof and bell finial and then served as a lock-up.
Many other examples are known from documentary sources from the late 12th century onwards. At Exeter the "chaplain of the bridge" appears in a document of 1196, and there was certainly a Chapel of St Edmund on the Exe Bridge by 1214. In 1249 there was a complaint that the dwelling of a female hermit on the bridge at Exeter was obstructing traffic. One of the earliest and most important bridge chapels was that founded on London Bridge in honour of St Thomas of Canterbury by Peter, chaplain of St Mary Colechurch, in 1200. It occupied the downstream starling of the ninth pier, and was endowed for two priests and four clerks. It subsequently attracted further chantry endowments, in 1270, 1303, 1334, and 1349. Before the end of the thirteenth century the priests and clerks were formed into a fraternity known as the "Brothers of the Bridge", with their own lodging in the Bridge House, and came to constitute what was, in effect, a chantry college. It survived the fire of 1212, but collapsed in 1384, and in 1396 its ruins were taken down and replaced by a new chapel in Perpendicular Gothic style, a two-storeyed building with a five-sided apse to the east. The tomb of the founder, Peter of Colechurch, was beneath the undercroft floor. By 1541 only one priest and a clerk served St Thomas's Chapel, and on the suppression of the chantries the building was converted to a dwelling and grocer's shop; it was finally demolished in 1553 (Cook, 1968, 55-6; Phillips, 1981, 221-5). A chapel on High Bridge, Lincoln, also dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury, was in being by 1200.
The number of recorded examples increases considerably in the 14th century. The Chapel of the Assumption was constructed over the central piers of Bristol Bridge (Hudd, 1897). At Nottingham when the Trent Bridge south of the town was rebuilt in stone in the 14th century a chantry chapel for two priests was included on the east side at the north end. In 1392 the Gild of St Mary in Stamford was granted licence to endow a chantry in the chapel of St Mary-at-the-Bridge (Cook, 1968, 55). At Salisbury St John's Chapel occupied an island in midstream immediately east of Harnham Bridge, and the Hospital of St Nicholas at the north end of the bridge was responsible for the maintenance both of the bridge and of the chapel. At Coventry the bridge over the River Sherbourne just outside Gosford Gate included St George's Chapel, built for the Fraternity of St George in the early 15th century; its nave and chancel were both 6m wide, and it had a circular turret in the north-west corner; it was demolished in 1822 (VCH Warwicks VIII, 331-2). At Bewdley (Heref.& Worc.) there was a small timber bridge-chapel on the town side of the Severn on the north side of the 15th-century bridge; this was still maintained as late as 1650, when 1000 tiles were ordered from Worcester for its repair, but it succumbed when the medieval bridge was replaced in 1798 (VCH Worcs.IV, 315).
Almost every medieval bridge over the Thames appears to have had a chapel either on or by it (Phillips, 1981). At Lechlade (Gloucs.) a chantry chapel in the meadow by the bridge, which survived to Leland's time, housed a priest originally attached to the 13th-century St John's Hospital, which had specific duties for the repair of the bridge. New Bridge over the Thames was looked after by a hermit licensed to collect tolls for the bridge maintenance in 1462; the Chequers Inn at Standlake (Oxon) is said to stand on the site of the hermitage. At the south end of the Grand Pont in Oxford Abingdon Abbey built a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas with a hermitage opposite, housing priests soliciting alms for its upkeep; after the Dissolution the chapel became a courthouse for the Archdeacon of Berkshire, then a private residence, finally being demolished in the 19th century. A chapel was built at the entrance to Abingdon Bridge on its opening in c.1422, and was dissolved under ?Edward VI. At Wallingford the Mary Grace Chapel built into an archway at the town end of the bridge accommodated priests collecting benefactions for its upkeep; here responsibility for maintenance was transferred to the secular authorities after 1344, and the chapel was destroyed in the Civil War. At Caversham the bridge was mainly timber-built, but it included the stone-built Chapel of St Anne standing on a massive central pier in midstream. This was probably founded between 1163 and 1231 jointly by Reading Abbey and the Earl of Pembroke, and housed some famous religious relics. After the Dissolution it was sold to Henry VIII's cofferer, Anthony Bingham, who demolished it. Henley Bridge was also of timber on stone piers, and incorporated the Chapel of St Anne, first recorded in 1232, and destroyed in 1642. At Marlow the Chapel of St Mary stood at the town end of the bridge from c.1394; its ruins were removed during the Civil War. At Maidenhead a resident bridge chaplain to the Chapel of St Andrew was appointed by the Bishop of Salisbury; the chapel was rebuilt in 1423, and in 1451 the Fraternity of St Andrew was founded for its maintenance; it fell into ruin after the Dissolution.
Chantries are recorded in bridge chapels at Rotherham, York, Rochester and elsewhere. Other bridge chapels known only from documentary sources include St Leonard's Chapel, Ilchester (Somerset), recorded 1476, probably demolished 1797 and the bridge chapel at Bridgwater (Somerset).
Type G: Causeway chapels: There are some records of non-parochial chapels connected with causeways rather than bridges. Documented examples include one on the Northdyke causeway at Stickney and another at the west end of the Holland Bridge causeway (both Lincs.). Presumably these had the same function as the bridge-chapels described above.
Gate- and bridge-chapels experienced a variety of secondary uses after the Reformation. The Hanging Chapel at Langport was used in the late 16th and 17th centuries as a town hall; then it was given by the corporation to the trustees of Thomas Gillett's free grammar school, for whom it was repaired in 1706 and 1716; the grammar school used the premises until 1790, and the chapel was then used by the Sunday school from 1818 to 1827 (VCH.Somerset II, 456-7; III, 31, 37). The East Gate at Warwick was similarly used as a schoolroom in the 18th century. Other examples were used as guildhalls or strong-rooms.