A Brief History of the Chapel – The Chapel of St John the Baptist – better known as Duxford Chapel.
The small chapel of St John the Baptist is sited beside one of the main river crossings of the Icknield Way over the river cam.This was a major route for travellers in central and southern England, linking the Ridgeway track with internal ports on the Cam and the Ouse rivers and the coastal ports of Norfolk and Sufflok.
It was built as a hospital and chapel for the poor and sick, many of whom would have been travellers.
The founder was Sir William de Colville (died 1230), who inherited an estate in Duxford by marriage.
The chapel is believed to have been a Knight’s Templer preceptory from the time of it’s foundation and while the exact date of construction is not known.
In 1236 the prior was recorded as the first master of the chapel. The remains of the priory buildings, together with their fishpond and a burial ground, lie between the chapel and the river.
In 1286 the Hundred Rolls record the chapel with lands of 30 acres (12 hectares), a watermill and the right to hold a fair.
By 1308, when the preceptory at Duxford was dissolved and all holdings of the Knight’s Templars in the country were confiscated, the chapel had fallen into disrepair.
In 1324 the estate was passed from the Crown to the Knight’s Hospitalers, and the chapel was rebuilt in 1337 as a free chapel, that is a small isolated chantry chapel, at which time the right to appoint a priest to the chapel lay with the Bishop of Ely.
In 1547 Edward VI’s Act of Dissolution of Colleges and Chantries pensioned off the priests and left chantry chapels redundant, although at the time of dissolution it was said that the chapel at Duxford was already in decay and no services had been there for seven years. The following year the chapel was sold to Thomas Tyrell of London, along with 38 acres (15.4 hectares) of land, meadow and pasture, for £46 10 s.
For many years the chapel served as a barn to the adjecent Red Lion Inn. The construction of a new brick bridge in 1795 would have seen an increase in the amount of traffic on the turnpike road and a corresponding increase in the importance of the inn, though this was to decline after construction of the London to Cambridge railway in 1847 that cut across the former chapel grounds to the west.
The chapel fell into futher decay until it was eventually purchased by James Binney of Pampisford Hall in the 1890’s. In 1934 it was scheduled as an Ancient Monument and in 1947 the chapel was taken into the guardianship of the Ministry of Works, who undertook a programme of major repairs over the following eight years. Further repairs were carried out in the 1980’s.
In 1967, the chapel was listed grade II* in recognition of its architectural and historic interest.
Today, the chapel is in the ownership of the Binney Trust, and is managed jointly by English Heritage and South Cambs District Council.