Every town has its notable quirks and features that it has accumulated over its lifetime; this week’s post highlights St Emerenciana’s Chapel another of the lesser known & unappreciated buildings in Sherborne.
The remains of the chapel of the Virgin Martyr St. Emerenciana form part of a small Grade II* listed building in Coombe Lane on the Northern outskirts of the town.
It is thought to date from the 14th Century, but when Leland, the Antequary, was travelling in this area between 1534-1543 he recorded that the chapel had “cleare fallen downe”.
St Emerenciana was a 4th Century saint, who was stoned to death by a pagan mob as she knelt in prayer at the grave of her foster-sister St Agnes. St Agnes -a member of Roman nobility born into a Christian family in AD 291- had suffered death by beheading at age twelve or thirteen rather than compromise her faith and virginity.
Tolerance had not yet been extended to Christians in the Roman Empire.
In later years the remains of the building were used as Nether Coombe Farm House, one can still see the tiny 14th Century east window though, now blocked up in the wall of the former farm building.
In the adjacent old barn on the Northern side, there is one other relic of the chapel; a 14th or 15th Century stone doorway. (The wrought iron gate is modern).
However, it is now all a part of the grounds of the Sherborne International School, and as such, difficult to gain entry to.
St Emerenciana was included in the beautiful Sherborne Missal; the early 15th Century manuscript made for the Abbey that is, according to the British Library, ‘probably the largest and most lavishly decorated English medieval service book to survive from the Middle Ages’.
A digital interactive copy of the Missal can be seen in Sherborne’s Museum (which is always worth a visit for an insight into local history).