Civic Society column: Grantham’s Chantry House dates from 1470
A chantry was a monetary trust fund established for the purpose of employing one or more Catholic priests to sing a stipulated number of masses during a defined period of time for the spiritual benefit of a deceased person, generally the donor.
Before the Reformation, chantries were commonly established in England and were endowed with lands, rents and other assets given by donors, often in their wills. The income from these maintained the chantry priest. Chantries were also often established to provide a priest to educate the boys of the town, and to teach them Latin and Greek.
A Guild was a group of artisans who had control of that practice, such as shoemakers within the town. The Guild of Corpus Christi was a religious guild established to honour the body and blood of Jesus. Trades in the town are mentioned in a detailed reply to a complaint in the the sixteenth century, that the bells of St Wulfram’s were being rung too frequently. ‘We are and was accustoeyed; upon Saynt Cresepeniayne Even, to ryng for Showmakers. And likewise upon St Clemens Eve for Bakers. And of St Catherine’s Eve millners. And Sant Tandrewe Eve Buchers. And they have roung this xxxti (30) years…for they have much bessiness of Satterday, beying our Markett Day, and Chrismas is neare at hand’.
There were nine Chantries in the Deanery of Grantham in 1535, Harlaxton, Boothby Pagnell and seven in Grantham. These seven were Corpus Christi, St Mary, St Peter, St John the Baptist, St Thomas the Martyr, Holy Trinity and St Catherine. The Guilds of Corpus Christi had a procession on Corpus Christi Day (the Thursday after Pentecost) and the north aisle of St Wulfram’s was the chantry or choir of the guild of Corpus Christi.
The Chantry House was a substantial medieval stone house on Watergate, or Walkergate as it was then called. It dated from 1470 and may have belonged to the guild of Corpus Christi. It was situated where the bakery now stands, next door to the Playhouse and, when demolished in 1839, the bay window and decoration was rebuilt on the front of a house in Belton village.
The original house appeared to be of a cross-range construction, with a hall parallel to Walkergate. It had an arched door with a passageway at the rear, which separated the chambers to the right from the public rooms to the left. The building was altered several times in its lifetime, probably first in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. It was drawn by John Carter in 1790 and then by John Buckler in 1811, who illustrated its two-storied stone bay window, later to be reused. There is a note on Carter’s drawing which states that, when he drew the house, its occupant was Dr Newton, a local character who only came out in the middle of the night to hunt by moonlight.