Heritage Open Day Event: Turvey Abbey – The Chapels

The Chapels at Turvey Abbey

Main Chapel from the Garden

As a Benedictine community, the Divine Office (daily services) in the chapel takes the central place in our life. We sing the Office, a cappella or accompanied by zither, guitar, or organ. Some of the music and words were written by members of the community. Everyone is welcome to join us in the chapel—we also livestream Vespers to our Turvey Abbey YouTube channel.

We are not the first people to have a chapel at Turvey Abbey. John Higgins writes in his Turvey Abbey Scrapbook (p 57):

‘An old man (Joseph Wooding) living at Turvey when the writer of this memoir first came there, told him that he had lived a servant with the above named Winifred Brand, and that he remembered Mass to be constantly performed at the Abbey, in the chapel, which is now a garret in the middle of the house—looking nearly north and south viz. the one above the drawing room.’

Turvey Abbey Scrap Book by John Higgins

(The Brands were a Roman Catholic family. The last member of the family to live at Turvey Abbey, Winifred, died in 1745.)

Before we had a public chapel at the Abbey, Mass and the Divine Office were celebrated at the Monastery next door, on the upstairs landing of what is now the guest house. We used a room on the top floor of the Abbey as our private chapel—actually part of the garret mentioned above.

Our First Chapel

Our first public chapel was in the room near the road. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in this chapel. The tabernacle stand was made from old oak from the Abbey, the long pieces at the back are ceiling joists from the top floor of the Abbey.

Our First Chapel at Turvey Abbey. This was our main chapel in the early 1980’s

The Big Hall as Chapel

As more people came to join us, the chapel became too small and we moved into the big hall. Until the Studio was completed, we had the chapel at one end of the hall and looms and sewing machines by the windows at the other end. In 1991 it was goodbye to the red flock wallpaper—our new chapel went into use, and the big hall became our library.

The Big Hall as Chapel. This was our main chapel from 1983 to 1991

Our Main Chapel

Our architect, Denis Bettell, received a design award for our new chapel—many hours were spent discussing the details with him. The chapel can be re-arranged quite easily to reflect the different liturgical seasons, and is quite resonant, which helps with the singing.
The altar was dedicated on 5th November 1991. Mass and the Divine Office have been celebrated in this chapel ever since.

Left: Denis Bettell, Architect – Right: Eric Coles, Stonemason
1980’s Sr Regina walking where the chapel now stands. The cars would have belonged to our Sunday Mass congregation.
1990   Our main chapel under construction

The old timbers used in our chapel for the altar legs came from the roof structure of Ravenswood House, the building next to the chapel opposite the Abbey, which used to be a single-story building. The old timbers for the altar were chosen and smoothed down by a member of the community, and the altar was then constructed by a firm in Liverpool, as were the other furnishings.

The Paschal Candle stand was made from the same wood by a member of the community, the five nails used on the stand are old hand-forged nails from the Abbey building. The Easter Candle is decorated by a member of the community.

Our Lent cross was made by a member of the community using old oak from the Abbey. The horizontal piece was the threshold from the door to the room which was used as the servants’ bathroom.

Paschal Candle Design

The design on our Paschal Candle is created by a member of the community. This is the tracing used for our 2023 Paschal Candle.

The design is traced onto the wax using a stylus and painted with acrylic paint—a challenge on the curved surface of the candle.

Each year we have a new candle which is lit from a fire at the start of the Easter Vigil.
The ancient ceremony is as follows:–

The fire is blessed

The candle is blessed

The celebrant cuts a cross in the wax, and traces the letters and numerals:–

Christ yesterday and today
the beginning and the end,
Alpha and Omega
all time belongs to him
and all the ages;
to him be glory and power
through every age and for ever. Amen

The celebrant then inserts the five grains of incense

1   By his holy
2   and glorious wounds
3   may Christ our Lord
4   guard us
5   and keep us. Amen

The candle is then lit from the new fire

The Easter Vigil then continues with biblical readings tracing the history of salvation from the story of creation in Genesis to the Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus.

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