St. Patrick's Chapel, Heysham
OS Grid ref:- SD409616
The ruined chapel of St Patrick Chapel perches dramatically on a headland above St Peter's Church, in Heysham, Lancashire.
The atmospheric ruins overlook Morecambe Bay, with views of the southern Lake District beyond. They date back to eighth or ninth century, it is believed that the chapel was built to serve a monastic community. Most of the south wall, the east gable wall, and the east part of the north wall are still extant.
The south wall contains a doorway with long and short jambs and an arch with concentric grooves. The remains vary in height from foundation level to around 12 feet high. The chapel is an undivided rectangular building, like a Celtic Oratory, of the tenth century, except that it has a round Saxon arch to the doorway.
Just to the south of the chapel is a group of six rock-cut tombs and a separate group of two rock-cut tombs, each tomb has an associated socket probably intended for a timber cross.The slabs which covered the graves and the contents, were removed long ago.
The site was excavated by Lancaster University in 1977, when it was dated it to the late sixth or early seventh century. Buried skeletons uncovered were dated as no earlier than the tenth century. A further excavation was carried out in April 1993 on land below the stone coffins.
No human bones were found but more than 1,200 artefacts were discovered, which revealed that the site had been occupied about 12,000 years ago, these included some sherds of medieval pottery and a stone with a carved birds head. St Patrick’s Chapel is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is now owned by the National Trust.
A path leads from around the back of the chapel, down to the beach, along which the remains of walls and arches are visible, some of these have been hewn from the bedrock, others rebuilt from known remains and rubble.
The tiny church of St Peter, situated below the chapel, contains a Viking hog-back stone dating from around 1000AD, which would originally have been a grave cover. During restoration work in 1864 a chalice was discovered in a stone coffin outside the church, which is now on display inside.
Part of a decorated shaft of a ninth century high cross is situated close to the gate in the churchyard. Now set in a modern base, the south face of the shaft displays a human figure beneath an arch or halo. Beneath this figure there is a panel with interlaced decoration. The sides of the cross shaft are decorated with cabled edging and scrolls.
Leave the M6 at junction 34 or 35 and follow signs for Morecambe/Heysham. From Heysham, follow the brown tourist signposts marked St Patrick's Chapel. The chapel can be reached on foot by following the signs from down in the village.