Friar Tuck’s Chapel?
Photographs by Gary Tacagni.
I had come across references to Steetly Chapel in a book that I had borrowed from Leek library and also the connections it is said to have with Robin Hood and Friar Tuck. I knew that it would not be an easy task in trying to find the chapel as Steetly does’nt show up on a road map, however I did find the oddly named Rhodesia which seemed to be the closest village to Steetly on the outskirts of Worksop.
On Wendnesday 27th of July 2011 I decided to see if I could find the chapel, and as I intended on looking at a Harley Davidson for sale in Sheffield which is only about half an hour away from Worksop I decided to combine the two. I followed the A6 from Buxton and then picked up the A619 which would take me all the way to Worksop, I knew that when I passed over the M1 there is a seven mile stretch of road before you come into Worksop and it is somewhere along this stretch where you need to turn off, however there are no sign posts to Rhodesia or Steetly and I ended up on the outskirts of Worksop where I had to ask for directions, they sent me back the way I’d come about a mile and I took a small road which was Steetly lane I followed this and eventually came into Rhodesia, I then backtracked the way I had come and found the chapel surrounded by trees close to the begining of Steetly lane. I was not sure what I would find, whether the chapel was derelict (as I had seen in drawings of it), but I was pleasantly suprised to find that it was in very good condition and had obviously been renovated at some time in the past.
Steetly Chapel is one of the few buildings which date back to Norman times in the Sherwood area and so there could be some truth to the legend that Friar Tuck and Robin Hood along with his Merry men used this chapel for prayer all those years ago. As a wanted outlaw Robin would have been aware that he could become trapped in this chapel, and it is said that a false ceiling would have allowed him and his followers to evade capture.
I was quite suprised to find the door unlocked allowing visitors to enter and explore the chapel which is very trusting and unusual in this day and age. When I entered and looked up at the ceiling I could see how a floor could have existed and there was even a doorway between where the two rooms would have been!
Steetly Chapel is also said to be the church where Alan-a-Dale was married. The Minstrel’s lover was due to get married in Steetly Chapel to an elderley nobleman who her parents had chosen for her, however Robin rescued her from this arranged marriage and she went on to marry Alan-a Dale in this very church.
While walking around in the church I brought a copy of the parish magazine and I thought I would include an extract from it as it seems to describe this unique building very aptly: “the nave with its fine clerestory windows dates from 1150-80, while the chancel and transepts are of the mid 1300s. It is a very historic edifice, but that is not all. There are other qualities to the building which never seem to be mentioned. I am refering to the ambience or atmosphere which to me, pervades the interior of the building. This is partly due to the architecture, but I also believe that centuries of worship by generations of Whitwell people and the care and affection they have given the place are also factors. To me, all this has some how been incorporated into the hallowed edifice, so that it encompasses the entire interior, and gives it a unique ambience.
One can be alone in the building on a dark night locking up after a service, with no lights on, yet the atmosphere remains friendly and pleasant. Some worshippers have said that they find a very profound spiritual dimension to the church, which may be lacking in other churches, no matter how sacred they may be.
Stand anywhere in the church and there is always a new perspective to be discovered. For example from the sanctuary rail westward one has a long view down the nave ending in the imposing organ pipes, or there is the opposte view, from the tower screen looking towards the altar, viewing the splendid crossing arch, the white chancel walls and the great east window.
In the nave the massive pillars and robust capitals, eight centuries old, support the rare clerestorey windows and lofty vault with its wooden tie beams. Again there are other views at various points in the interior, one is always finding new angles, for example near the Rector’s stall one catches a glimpse of the manners tomb, or from the crossing one sees what remains of the medieval rood loft, evidence of local and national history”.
Whatever the reasons you have, whether it is the legends of Robin Hood and Friar tuck or just that you have an interest in old churches, this place is well worth a visit as there is certainly a tranquility to be found here, and also on a last note there is a legend that the old property next door to the church is the place where Robin Hood was buried, that being said I don’t suppose its the first time that someone’s made that claim!
The photograph on the right shows the property next to the church which is said to be the resting place of Robin Hood.