A history of Odda’s chapel in Deerhurst

The Benedictine monastery ‘Odda’s chapel‘ is a Grade 1 listed building located within the heritage protected ‘Deerhurst Monastic Site’ in Deerhurst. This site holds the chapel, Priory and St Mary’s Church. It was <Earl Odda who built the chapel, a Saxon church, to rest the soul of his brother Aelfric, who died on 22 December 1053. Their sister, Ealdgyth, who may have outlived both brothers to perhaps still be living after the Norman Conquest, appears in Domesday Book. Saxon churches are rare, but Deerhurst on the River Severn, plays host to two.

Odda of Deerhurst‘ was an Anglo-Saxon nobleman active from 1013 onwards. As a result of the confiscation of property and earldoms from Godwin, Earl of Wessex and his sons in 1051, Odda became a leading magnate. It was King Edward the Confessor who gave Odda the position of Earl over a section of this vacated territory. Earl Godwin later had his lands returned as he was restored to royal favour. As compensation Odda received a new earldom in the West Midlands instead. Later in life he became a monk and he is buried at Pershore Abbey.

Odda’s Chapel, a very simple stone building, was lost from view for centuries when it was conjoined with a 16th century farmhouse called Abbot’s Court. It was used for accomodation until 1865 when its historic significance was realised. 20 years later it was recognised as a chapel and was then disentangled from Abbot’s Court.

Maintained by English Heritage, a roof restoration started to take place in 1965. Old photos show that though the roof is mainly of 17th century origin, there were earlier design features dating back to the 11th or 12th century. These could be part of the original roof.
A number of excavations have occurred in Deerhurst since the 1970s and items from a 1981 excavation can be found in the Tewkesbury Museum.

It was in 1675 that a stone bearing the Latin inscription stating ‘Earl Odda ordered this royal chapel to be built and dedicated in honour of the Holy Trinity, for the soul of his brother Aelfric who left his body in this place’ was discovered nearby. The date on the stone for the building’s dedication was 12 April 1056. Such a stone, with date included for a building so old is highly unusual. When the stone was discovered three quarters of the way through the 17 century, no one knew where the building that it referred to was. It wasn’t until the 1885 repair work on the farmhouse when someone discovered an old window that the story began to unravel.

Incredible history on our doorstep. I will post again next week with a little more information about our man Odda. If you are coming for a relaxing stay at our self catering holiday cottage we definitely recommend a walk down the river to see Odda’s chapel and immerse yourself in the history of our local land.

Oddas Chapel by Chris Gunns
Odda’s Chapel and Abbot’s Court, Deerhurst
© Chris Gunns and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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