The Lumley Chapel, Cheam
The Lumley Chapel is a remarkable survival from the medieval village of Cheam, and remains one of its most important focal points. The chapel is the former chancel or sanctuary of the old pre-Victorian parish church, replaced over 150 years ago by the present church. The remains of two round headed windows in the external north elevation of the chapel (facing the new church) may be pre-Norman Conquest (1066) in date, and are from the earliest masonry church dedicated to St Dunstan, the Anglo-Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 988 AD. The low tiled projection of flint and brick below accommodates one of the Lumley monuments, added at the end of the 16th century when John, Lord Lumley acquired the chapel for his own personal use, and converted it into his private family mausoleum. The remainder of this wall is patched with flint and medieval grey-green Reigate stone blocks, probably re-used from the medieval church demolished in 1746. Thin strips of brown and red brick survive from the Georgian church, which replaced it, while the paler brickwork of the west elevation dates from 1864, when that church was also demolished. The monuments from that building, representing the families of worshippers in the church for over some 600 years or more, were moved into the old chapel with the agreement of the Lord of the Manor, creating a unique and intense monumental display. A Trust was set up to maintain the chapel, which was dissolved when the building was transferred to the Churches Conservation Trust in 2000.
On entering, the eye is drawn upward to the pretty ceiling, dated 1592, extending the full length of the chapel except at the west end where it has been cut off and replaced with a more sober section, idated 1746, above the entrance door. A large east window lights the building, and until about 1800 another window to its left (blocked behind the large neo-classical monument, and clearly visible outside) threw light onto the large columned monument of John, Lord Lumley (died 1609) opposite. An important statesman and collector, Lumley was a Catholic sympathiser during the reign of Elizabeth I, and was imprisoned for attempting to install Mary Queen of Scots on the throne in the 1570s. Later, he was to sit on the committee that condemned her to death. His monument details his long pedigree in Latin script and heraldic display. The large alabaster monument to his first wife, Jane Fitzalan (died 1577), lies opposite, blocking an arch to another lost chapel (again, best viewed from the outside). The Lumleys’ three deceased children are portrayed in relief; they are shown, slightly turned, praying towards the altar, possibly in the chapel of their home at Nonsuch Palace. Above them, clouds represent prayers. Opposite Lady Jane’s monument is that of Lumley’s second wife Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Darcy of Chiche (died 1617) with a three-dimensional recumbent effigy set in a decorative niche. All three monuments display copious family heraldry.
The smaller brass and marble monuments around the chapel date from the 14th to the 20th centuries, a number of which, on inspection, genealogically cross-connect. Family names such as Pierson, Kempson, Pybus. Sanxay and Antrobus reflect Cheam’s upper classes during the 18th and 19th centuries, while monuments to Gilpin and Carrick relate to the famous Cheam School. Details of these and other monuments are given in the guidebook on sale in the chapel, and at Whitehall (London Borough of Sutton Heritage Service) nearby.
Churches Conservation Trust Volunteer for the Lumley Chapel
Visiting the Lumley Chapel?
The key is available from Cheam Library during opening hours and from the Parish Office during opening hours.
A £5 deposit is required.