The congregation, made up of parishioners from Immaculate Conception, Herringthorpe, St Bede’s, Masbrough, St Gerard’s, Thrybergh and Blessed Trinity, Wickersley, was delighted to welcome Bishop Ralph on 16 March to say his first Mass at the Chapel. He will certainly have been one of the first Catholic Bishops to celebrate Mass in the Chapel since the 1550s.
In medieval times it was relatively common to find a small chapel built on a bridge over a river on the main road into the centre of a town. Most were destroyed centuries ago and only four survive today, one of which is on Chantry Bridge in Rotherham.
The construction of the Chapel can be dated to 1483 and it is thought that Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York, may have donated most of the money needed for building the Chapel. The interior was richly furnished and contained a skilfully decorated gold statue of the Virgin and Child.
In the 1560s the Chapel was converted into an Almshouse and then in 1778 was converted again into the town jail. Features of the jail can still be seen in the crypt today.
Early in the 19th century the Chapel’s use changed again and it became a dwelling house, before ending the century as a tobacconist’s shop.
In the 20th century the purpose of the building was restored to a Chapel prompted by financial support from Sir Charles Stoddart, several times Mayor of Rotherham and the first person to be granted the Freedom of the Town.
Bishop Ralph was delighted to be able to say Mass in such an old Chapel with its roots firmly in Catholic times before the Reformation.