MSO7576 - Burgundy Chapel (Building)


The remains of a medieval chapel and attached building. The chapel was excavated in the 1940s and in 1985. The remains now comprise a ruined building measuring 8.3 by 3.9 metres internally and defined by walls up to 2.5 metres high.

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Type and Period (3)

Protected Status

Full Description

SS 9478 4814. Burgundy Chapel (NR) (Remains of) (NAT). [1] The ruin called Burgundy Chapel is about one and a half miles north west of the parish church. The building was a tiny place measuring about 25 by 16 feet. Very little is known about it, but it seemed by its position on the side of a cliff overhanging the sea, to have been a votive chapel erected in thanksgiving for escape, possibly when returning from one of the disastrous expeditions to Burgundy. It is suggested that the chapel of Burgundy, was the same as Bircombe Chapel mentioned in the Dunster Castle household accounts for the year 1405. [2] The chapel has been constructed on a platform deeply cut into the hillside. The rubble walls, up to 7.0 metres thick, stand to a maximum height of 3.0 metres. The western part, on a slightly different alignment and of cruder construction, appears to be an addition. There are two door openings in the north wall and a complete doorway in the south wall (see AO/62/146/2). The interior of the ruin is overgrown and filled with rubble. For a general view of the chapel from the west see AO/62/146/3. Published survey (1:2500 1929) revised. [3] No change. [4] After clearance by fire, the chapel remains were noted to lie in a roughly rectangular enclosure. [5] The chapel was known to be ruined in 1717. [6] Restoration work was undertaken in 1985, and very limited excavation within the interior reexposed the flooring found in the 1940 excavation. The chapel has an attached, possibly earlier, domestic building which may be a hermitage. The buildings lie within a quadrilateral enclosure partly defined by an artificial bank. [7] The Burgundy Chapel is centred at SS 94787 48145 on steep north facing slopes and on the edge of a deep stream gulley on the western side of Burgundy Chapel Combe. The ruins were excavated in the 1940s and further work was undertaken in 1985, including limited excavation and detailed survey work. The remains comprise the chapel itself measuring 8.3 by 3.9 metres internally and defined by walls up to 2.5 metres high and 0.6 metres thick. A doorway survives intact on the south side and a second opening is visible on the north. The western side of a window splay survives towards the eastern end of the south wall.The chapel butts against an earlier building which lies to the west. This structure, which is more crudely built, measures 7.8 by 3.9 metres internally and is defined by walls varying in thickness between 0.45 metres and 0.7 metres. It is on a slightly different alignment (by 5 degrees) to the chapel. It has an opening towards the western end of the south wall. The northern end is too fragmentary to ascertain whether there was a second entrance here. The interior of this building is very disturbed, with a large hollow midway along its northern side and a mound filling its south-eastern corner. Outside the building on its northern side is a large linear mound which is either connected with the construction of the building or its subsequent clearance in the 1940s. Likewise, some 10 metres to the north is a level area which can either be interpreted as a flat-topped spoil mound from the excavations or a platform for another building. It is currently too overgrown to make a definite assesment. Dense undergrowth also prevented an assessment of the enclosure noted by source 5.To the east of the chapel and on the other side of the stream gulley is a well constructed track terraced into the hillside by 1.8 metres and running along the hillside from SS 94932 48159 to SS 94840 48173 for a distance of about 80 metres. It ends abruptly on the eastern lip of the stream gulley. It presumably originally crossed the gulley and formed the main approach to the chapel. The fieldwork wascarried out as part of RCHME's survey of the Exmoor National Park holding on North Hill. [8,9] Poorly documented medieval chapel, mentioned in Luttrell household accounts 1405 as "Bircombe Chapel" and payment of £6 13s 4d for chaplain in 1420. [10] Excavations in 1940 by West Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society(?) are not fully published but showed that the west part of the building was a 2 roomed structure with fireplace indicated by the find of a ventilation tile which also indicated a roof pitch of approximately 50 degrees. This part of complex has been interpreted as an anchorite and servant's dwelling. Finds included glazed ridge tiles, Treborough and North Devon slates and pottery. The chapel was thought to be later than the dwelling. [11] The chapel is set on a platform in the hillside. It has rubble walls up to 0.7 metres thick and 3 metres high. There is a fine ashlar 4-centred arch door in the south wall and two door openings in the north wall. [12] The enclosure cannot now be identified because of bracken growth, but a level platform was seen approximately 10 metres north of the west end of the chapel which may be debris from excavations or a second building. The west end of the building is much cruder and appears butted on to the west quoins of the chapel. [13] Site cleared and walls consolidated in April 1984. [14] Further site clearance was carried out in June 1985 and much of the debris inside the chapel removed. Revealed original slate floor by the north entrance. [16] When visited in June 2000 the site was extremely overgrown with nettles and bracken. Some small trees were growing. [21] The Medieval chapel is visible as a ruined building on aerial photographs and is as described above. [22-24] Consolidation work was carried out by Ian Burrow in 1985 consisting of minor recapping and soft capping of the walls. In 2001 "minimal remedial" work was carried out to rebed loose stones at the top of the walls and replace the soft capping. The doorhead was badly deteriorating with flakes of limestone peeling off, this damage was covered with a sacrifical coat of lime plaster. [25] The site is depicted and labelled on the 2018 MasterMap data. [26]

Sources/Archives (26)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1928-1938. 6 Inch Map: 1928-1938, 3rd Edition. 1:10560.
  • <2> Article in serial: Hancock, F. 1906. Dunster Church. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society. 52. P. 19-20.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigators Comments. EG, 25 July 1962.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigators Comments. J Palmer, 22 July 1965.
  • <5> Article in serial: Aston, M. 1976. Somerset Archaeology 1974-5. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Societ. 120. P. 73.
  • <6> Article in serial: Osborn, B.. 1983. Parish surveys in Somerset five: Minehead Without. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 5. P. 28.
  • <7> Article in serial: Dennison, E. 1985. Somerset Archaeology 1984-5. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society. 129. P. 22-23.
  • <8> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 13 November 1997.
  • <9> Report: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 1997. The field archaeology of North Hill: An archaeological survey of the Exmoor National Park holding.
  • <10> Article in serial: Huish, M. 1st February. Home of a Hermit. The Field. 141.
  • <11> Article in serial: Anon.. 1940. Recent Discoveries at Burgundy Chapel. Somerset County Herald.
  • <12> Map: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1978. SS94NW. 13.
  • <13> Unpublished document: Somerset County Council. Various. Somerset HER parish files - Exmoor records. PRN 34487.
  • <14> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. E Dennison, Somerset County Council, 10 October 1984.
  • <15> Unassigned: April 1984. Historic Environment Service HBC 3.022.-2 1:50.
  • <16> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. E Dennison, Somerset County Council, 10 June 1985.
  • <17> Unassigned: June 1985. Historic Environment Service HBC 3.022.-4-7.
  • <18> Photograph: Slide (SCC Planning Department). 3.22.97-99, 3.22.108-110.
  • <19> Report: Burrow, I.. 1986. Burgundy Chapel, Minehead Without: Report to Exmoor National Park Officer on archaeological work un 1984 and 1985, with recommendations for future management of the site.
  • <20> Index: 1940s. Copies of 1940s slides and index.
  • <21> Unassigned: Webster, Chris. 27/6/2000.
  • <22> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF/106G/UK/1655 4006-4007. 11/07/1946.
  • <23> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/79013 164-165. 17/04/1979.
  • <24> Archive: Severn Estuary Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment: SS 94 NW. MD000133.
  • <25> Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2001. Burgundy Chapel, Minehead, Somerset.
  • <26>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 2018. MasterMap. [Mapped feature: #46190 Extent of chapel, ]



Grid reference Centred SS 9477 4815 (26m by 18m) (Centred on)
Map sheet SS94NW

Finds (3)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (7)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO210
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11909
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 94 NW13
  • National Park
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 36796
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 34487
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 34487

Record last edited

Mar 2 2021 2:18PM


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