A Brief History
The chapel is a 'peculiar' existing outside the control of the Church of England. It was traditionally endowed by two maiden sisters named Hewett in the early 13th century. It is now an independent foundation, held in trust since 1575 by twelve feoffees who are responsible for the preservation and upkeep of the chapel on behalf of the townspeople of Warminster who actually 'own' it. Saint Lawrence was martyred by the Romans, being roasted to death on a gridiron. His festival is on August 10th and the Patronal festival is held each year on the closest Sunday to this date. The chapel is in the Church of England Parish of St.Denys and, on the appointment of a new vicar, the feoffees invite that person to take services. From time to time other members of the clergy are invited to take services. A service of Holy Communion is held each Wednesday at 10.00am.
Requests for Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals may be made to the Parish Clerk. See Home Page
Situated in the centre of the market town of Warminster the chapel is an oasis of calm in the midst of the traffic and commerce of the town. The chapel is opened every weekday and on Saturdays and many people take the opportunity to pop in and sit quietly in contemplation. The feoffees maintain a security rota and there is CCTV coverage. Inside the chapel there is a Scudamore Organ, built in 1860 by Nelson Hall, an organ maker of the town, to a design by the vicar of Upton Scudamore the Rev John Baron MA. At the West End there are the boards recording the names of the Feoffees since it was donated to the townsfolk right up to the current time.
Stained glass windows, dating from 1855, the one to the north celebrates Easter, the new south window funded by the Chapel Friends and undertaken by Salisbury Cathedral Glass in 2014, replaced a plain one which had suffered from bomb damage in the last war. The rather unusual chair to the north by the altar was donated by the late Geoffrey Butcher as the original was stolen! This chair was made by Matthew Burt of Sherrington
A visitors book is always open to record your visit, please leave a comment if you visit, and if you would like a prayer said for a loved one, then fill in a prayer slip and "post " it in the prayer box. The tower is the oldest part of the chapel, dating from the fourteenth century and is accessed by an anti-clockwise spiral staircase. On the way up you pass the clock room which houses a wrought iron clock built by William Rudd in 1764, and paid for by public subscription, it has no face as, at that time houses were standing in front of the chapel, thus a face would not have been seen. Climbing higher you reach the Belfry, which houses the curfew bell, cast by John Lott in 1652, his foundry was just over the road in the common close. This bell still sounds the curfew at 8pm, the residents are grateful it does not sound at 4 am which was the original 'wake up' time! From the roof a spectacular view of the town can be seen and a series of photographs, exhibited in the chapel, show this panoramic view. Before you go, as you walk out through the door, look up to view the "horrific" gargoyles sneering down at you enough to frighten even the devils they were protecting the worshiper from! The chapel acts as a focal point for many activities including the Cross raised on the front lawn at Easter and the Field of Remembrance in November. At the time of the death of Princess Diana people came to lay flowers in the garden and, more recently, a Liverpool scarf was laid by someone to commemorate the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. From 2009 until 2012 the chapel housed Condolence Books for the 13 locally based soldiers who died helping others on foreign soil.
Behind the chapel is a cottage which was originally used by the sexton who had to ring the rising bell (4am) and the curfew bell (8pm). The bell rope led into the cottage so the sexton did not have to leave the cottage. This cottage was renovated by the feoffees in 2007 and income from the letting provides the chapel with its only regular source of income. The upkeep of any building requires constant attention and, in 2008 the "Friends of the Chapel of St. Lawrence" (FOCSL) was established to support the work of the feoffees. More information about their work can be found on a separate page.
©2020 by St Lawrence Chapel Warminster