The Chapel of St Michael’s Within is located in Chapel Court, our almshouse complex in the centre of Bath. The ‘Within’ part of our chapel’s name refers to the fact that it was within the city walls and therefore free from the plague!
Early medieval ‘hospitals’ often had chapels dedicated to a particular saint, whose name was then given to the institution as a whole. There have actually been two chapels at the site – the original Norman chapel was dedicated to St John the Baptist, hence our charity’s name. It was then renamed and rededicated to St Michael when it was rebuilt in the Victoria era.
Two striking features of the chapel, from the 16th century, are the timber bell tower which was built circa 1580 and the clock on the Eastern gable, which was one of the earliest public clocks in Bath. As private clocks were rare, many Bathonians would have relied on the St John’s clock for going about their daily business.
The box pews of the original church would have probably allowed for a maximum of 60 worshippers, with almshouse residents expected to attend both morning and evening prayers each day.
In 2011, St John’s completed a thorough refurbishment of the chapel interior. The most striking change, was the removal of the 19th century fixed pews, replacing them with cushioned chairs. This means they can be put in a variety of seating arrangements and allow less able visitors access with wheelchairs.
While residents are no longer required to attend daily services, we have a Chaplain and Verger on site, available to provide pastoral and spiritual care to both our residents and the public. A Christian chapel by origins, we welcome attendees of all faiths. Our chapel is open every day and people are welcome to come in for some quiet reflection, to say a prayer or simply to have a look around.
Magdalen Chapel, Holloway, Bath is part of St John’s Foundation.
Dating back to Norman times, the Chapel of St Mary Magdalen on Holloway served an adjoining leper hospital (hospice) built in the late 12th century. Both chapel and hospital were rebuilt by Bath Abbey’s Prior John Cantlow in around 1495; and with the decline of leprosy the hospital’s role developed into the care of the mentally ill. Restored and extended in the 19th century, Magdalen Chapel passed to the care of the trustees of Bath Municipal Charities in 1894 and hence St John’s Foundation.
Drawing an Anglican congregation from both the local neighbourhood and the wider community of Bath, services at the Chapel are held every Sunday as well as on feast days throughout the year. Choral Evensongs celebrate major festivals; and with its splendid 3 manual organ, and excellent acoustics, the Chapel is in regular use for rehearsals and concerts by The Chandos Singers of Bath and other performers.
Licensed by the Church of England, and with a capacity of around 60, Magdalen Chapel is a charming venue for Marriages and Christenings, and is available upon application to the Chaplain. The Chapel’s ancient graveyard affords a wonderful view of Bath Abbey, whilst the delightful Magdalen Chapel Garden, created in 2008 as a memorial garden dedicated to a lifelong member of the congregation, offers a sanctuary of peace and quiet on the walk up from the city.