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The Lumley Chapel

St Dunstan's Churchyard, Cheam, Surrey

The Lumley Chapel Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

The Lumley Chapel in the early 19th century when it was still the Chancel of Cheam Church. From a painting by Gideon Yates in the Sutton Heritage Collection.

The Lumley Chapel was the chancel of the original Cheam church which was left when the rest of the church was demolished in the 1860s.

The Lumley Chapel is the oldest standing building in the London Borough of Sutton, as the fragments of blocked window in the north wall is of late Saxon or early Norman date. The Archbishop of Canterbury acquired Cheam in 1018 and it is likely that the church was founded soon after. The dedication to St. Dunstan, who was Archbishop of Canterbury 959 - 988, fits well with this. He was the cathedral's most important saint until he was displaced by St. Thomas à Becket.

The blocked arch on the other (south) side of the chapel was for an aisle which was added to the church in the 12th century.

In the 1590s John Lord Lumley converted the building into a memorial chapel for himself and his two wives. He rebuilt the ceiling, which is dated 1592, and constructed the three remarkable tombs which dominate the chapel today.

Lumley's principal seat was Lumley castle in County Durham, but he married Jane, who was the daughter and co-heiress of the Earl of Arundel. Queen Mary sold Henry VIII's palace of Nonsuch to the Earl of Arundel in 1556 and Lumley inherited it in 1580. Lumley was a leading Elizabethan connoisseur who had a magnificent collection of books and paintings and also developed a major garden at Nonsuch.

The tomb on the right as you enter is the tomb of Lumley's first wife Jane Fitzalan (d.1577) who was the daughter of the 12th Earl of Arundel The main part of the tomb is of alabaster with marble pilasters. The decoration is partly Heraldic with the Lumley arms ( the parrot-like popinjays) and those of Arundel (the prancing horse). The front panel shows Jane's three children at prayer in the chapel within Nonsuch Palace. Note the fine incised stone medallion with a knight and dragon at the top of the tomb which is extremely unusual and very fine.

The first tomb on the opposite side of the chapel is for Lumley's second wife Elizabeth Darcy who died in 1617. The tomb is a mixture of alabaster and marble and is decorated with areas of fine low relief carving.

The tomb to Lord Lumley (d.1609) stands next to Elizabeth's. It is of alabaster and marble and, although it is of fine workmanship, it is less unusual and interesting that the other two. It is heavily decorated with heraldry which reflects Lumley's pride in his ancestry.

Although the tombs vary in style they must all have been commissioned by Lumley before 1590 as they are shown in the Red Velvet Book which contained an illustrated inventory of his most choice possessions.

The chapel contains many other memorials including ones to the Pybus family who lived in Cheam House which stood on the east side of the Broadway to the north of Whitehall and to the Antrobus's of Lower Cheam House in Gander Green Lane between Sutton and Cheam.

There is also a tablet (on the south wall) to Ann Gilpin the five year old daughter of the Rev William Gilpin, a headmaster of Cheam School and writer on picturesque landscape.

The chapel contains several brasses including ones to:

· Thomas Fromond (d.1542) and his wife Elizabeth Yerde. The Fromonds were one of the leading families in 16th and early 17th century Cheam. They remained Catholics after the reformation and suffered persecution in the later part of Elizabeth's reign.
· John Yerde (d.1449) and his wife.
· John Compton (d.1458) and his wife.
· William Woodward (d.1459).

Since 2002 the Chapel has been in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust (this link opens in a new window).