Cowdray House, Midhust, West Sussex title banner, a history of a magnificent 16th Cent house, destroyed by fire in the late 18th Cent
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The Chapel & Grand Staircase

plan of chapel and staircase Like the hall and many of the rooms in this part of Cowdray, it was one of the first to be built. It started with an oblong plan and had three windows along the north and south sides and probably a large window in the east. When the staircase, to the north, was enlarged, two of the windows were bricked up and the square east end was extended further back to form a three-sided apse with three windows. Two more windows on the south side were blocked up and a deep bay in the southwest corner was made for an organ and gallery above, which extended across the back of the chapel. In the south wall there is a bricked up doorway that probably led to a vestry.

When the alterations were complete, the chapel measured 50ft long and 24ft wide, extended to 30ft under the organ gallery. The floor was paved with medieval tiles, and the length of the chapel was dived by a stuccoed arch, 16 inches thick. The sidewalls were covered by simple mahogany wainscoting up to height of 7ft and above this were elaborate seventeenth century plaster decorations. On the east side of the stuccoed arch, traces of where it joined the walls are still visible, were two full sized figures, a woman on the north and a man on the south. There are also plaster closed panelled cupboard doors, even including the hinges!

There were several changes in altar design in the chapel. The earlier ones seem to have been quite small, but the last was so large that the centre window in the apse had to be bricked up. On the high altar-back was hung a painting of the Resurrection by Jacopo Amigoni and above it was an entablature surmounted by a cross. Above the whole was a flimsy canopy supported by four lofty poles.

Great Staircase
A door in the northeast corner of the hall takes you into a small hallway in front of the great staircase. The large area taken up by the stair replaced a much smaller staircase on the same site. The stair, ascending in a clockwise direction, filled the entire area of 34ft x 17½ft.

Chapel interior prior to fire site of altar North Wall apse from outside
Chapel interior
prior to fire
Site of Altar, 2000 North Wall, 1978 Apse from outside, 1978

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