Windleshaw Chantry

Windleshaw Chantry dates from about 1415 and is the oldest structure extant in St. Helens. (Now Merseyside, formerly Lancashire.) It is an unusual example of a detached chantry, not part of some other religious building. Locally, it is sometimes known as Windleshaw Abbey, though in fact it was never an abbey or even a priory.

It was originally built by local landowner Sir Thomas Gerard*, and was intended to be a place where masses would be said for all time for Sir Thomas and his family.

It was closed in 1548 and the building gradually fell into ruin. From as early as the 1600s the area around it was used a burial ground, particularly for local Catholics. (Lancashire had many recusant Catholics, long before the additions made by Irish immigration.) At first, such burials were unofficial.

By chance, the site is contiguous with the much larger St Helen’s Cemetery, owned by the local Council.

In recent years, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool has arranged for masses to be said on the site at Easter, and in normal times these are well-attended.

*Presumably the Sir Thomas Gerard who lived from about 1360 to 1416. He was knighted in 1393 and was the husband of Isabella Strangeways. 

A group is seeking to conserve the ruins and a visit to the site should be possible once Covid restrictions are terminated.

 

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