The Forbury Chapel

6th Century

John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury

Church St, Leominster HR6 8NQ

Opening times:
Monday - Friday: 9:30am–1pm

Welcome to The Forbury Chapel

The Forbury Chapel was built by order of John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury, who visited Leominster in 1282 after a period of conflict between the townspeople and Leominster Priory.

The townsfolk complained that the monks were ignoring their religious duties and had locked them out of the church. In 1283, Peckham ordered the monks to build a chapel next to the monastery gatehouse for the people to use, at his personal expense. The gatehouse arched across Church Street, but it collapsed in 1752.

Queen Mary I granted a charter to Leominster in 1554 that made provision for a grammar school, which was established in the chapel and remained there until about 1795. The Forbury served as both a schoolroom and a courthouse.


One of the carved heads supporting the chapel roof.

The current roof is a rare example of hammerbeam construction and dates from the 16th Century. At the base of each of the 8 roof trusses, unique carved heads look out at today’s visitors. The roof construction is hidden from view, but you can visit the Forbury Chapel website to see photographs of this hidden history.

Probably the most famous trial to take place there was that of Father Roger Cadwallader in 1610. He was charged with treason, being a Catholic ‘priest ordained abroad’, and was found guilty. He was executed at the Iron Cross in the town. In 1699, the roof of the Priory caught fire and the chapel was again used for services until the repairs were complete in 1705. Soon after, a fire engine house was built next to the chapel, with a schoolroom above, which was used until 1795.

John Ward (1704 – 1773) lived in Leominster in the 1750s. Ward managed a touring company of actors and hired the chapel for performances. Two of their grandchildren, Sarah Siddons and John Philip Kemble, both became national celebrities and are likely to have acted in the chapel. The Forbury was used as a theatre, school and court until the 1850s. In 1861, Thomas Sale, a local solicitor, bought both the chapel and Forbury House next door. He lived in the house and the chapel became his office. It continued as a courthouse and registrar’s office, later owned by one of Sale’s sons, William, until 1932.

John Ward by Thomas Beach. Courtesy of The Garrick Club, London.

Mr Sydney Bridge owned the chapel in the 1930s and 1940s. He was an eccentric businessman, who gifted Sydonia Park to the town. Mr Samuel Beaumont was the last private owner. He installed a dance floor, which was hired out for private parties and to a dance school. In 1984, the Forbury Chapel was purchased by a trust associated with the Priory church for community use.

Did you know?

When it was first built, the chapel was dedicated to Saint Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in his own cathedral in 1170.

Believed to be the Sale family in the garden of Forbury House. © Herefordshire Museum Service.