The North Chapel, also known as the “Lucas” chapel, occupies the North Eastern Part of the building and is approximately 6 metres on its eastern edge and 14 metres in its length. On its southern edge a red brick wall arcade creates two large arches into which a wooden framework slots housing removable panels which segregates the chapel from the rest of the current function room. A set of doors on the western edge further encloses and completes the structure. Resting on elevated plinths outside the door of the chapel stand two modern bronze statues, which are unmistakably ‘Cavalier’ in their attire. This pair of statues gives a clue to the subject of the artefacts which lie within.
Look at any historic document and it would not go unnoticed that St. Giles’ and St. John’s Abbey are well connected to the Lucas Family. After the Reformation the site of the Abbey passed to the Lucas family who made St. Giles’ their chapel. The family that thus occupied the old Abbey were regarded as one of the wealthiest and most cultured in the kingdom and it was said of them that “all the men were brave and all the women were chaste”. It is not surprising, therefore, that memorials still exist from that dark period of Colchester’s history where the principal topic of conversation would have been the besiegement of the town between June and August 1648. This, as many have studied in their schooling, culminated in the death of the “Royalist Pair”.
The North Chapel has become the focal point of the Lucas memorabilia within the centre and indeed contains various memorials to members of this distinguished family. The first and most obvious is the memorial to “Lucas & Lisle”. This black marble tablet, now dominating the north wall was originally a floor slab marking the final resting place of Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle, royalists shot by order of General Fairfax after the siege in 1648; in the latter stages of the English Civil War of the 17th century.
This large slab of marble was placed there with an inscription ending “…for their eminent loyalty to their soverain … were … in cold blood barbarously murdered.” When an objection to these words was lodged with the restored Charles II by the son-in-law of General Fairfax, the King asked the only surviving Lord Lucas what he should do. Lucas answered that of course he could allow as an alternative the words “Lucas and De Lisle were barbarously murdered for their loyalty to King Charles I, and his son ordered the memorial of their loyalty to be erased.” Charles II is then reputed to have commanded the letters to be engraved doubly deep.
On the 7th June 1661*, approaching 13 years after their deaths, Lucas & Lisle were given an elaborate full military funeral in St. Giles’ church. (See Reinterment of Lucas & Lisle)
To the right of the chancel in the North Chapel exists a Memorial Carving containing two plaques to the Lucas family. The frame to the plaques was carved by Louise Lucas Stratton, a direct descendent of Sir Thomas Lucas and further examples of her work can also be found in St. Nicholas’ Church in Little Saxham where the Lucas family were also noted to have been historically recorded.
The upper and smaller plaque reads: “MEMORIAE SACRVM NOBILISSIMI D.NI JOHANNIS D.NI LVCAS BARONIS DE SHENFIELD QVI OBILT 2D DIE JVLI 1671 ÆTATIS SVÆ GT 65”, which roughly translated reads “In sacred memory of our noble Lord. John Lord Lucas 1st Baron of Shenfield died on the 2nd July 1671 aged 65.
The second larger plaque reads: “THIS COPHIN INCLOSES THE BODY OF THE RIGHT HONBLE THE LADY ANNE LUCAS WHO DYED ON THE 22TH DAY OF AUGUST IN THE YEARE 1660”. Anne Lucas (nee Neville) was married to the John Lucas described above.
An arch with carved rosettes and strap ornament on its soffit also survived on the north wall, probably from the tomb of Thomas Lucas (d. 29 Aug 1611) and Mary Fermour his wife (d.1613).
This unique history of St. Giles’ makes the building especially significant in Colchester’s history and it is no surprise that the names of Lucas & Lisle survive in name as one of the Craft Lodges which meets here. Lucas & Lisle Lodge No. 8456 has been in existence since 1972 (the first lodge to be consecrated in the building) and is a name which they are extremely proud to bear.
Hidden behind a curtain in the chapel is the chancel and one of the three main stained glass features of St. Giles. The window houses three lights and is a ‘Good Shepherd’ theme. The centre light shows a representation of Jesus with a crosier in one hand and a lamb in the other, surrounded by a flock of sheep. Above all three are winged angels looking down, the centre of which is holding a scroll on which is written “I am the Good Shepherd”. The flanking ‘saints’ are probably St. Peter & St. Paul– as the character on the right is seen holding two keys, and the character on the left is depicted as a scribe.
The window is early 20th century and is dedicated to members of the Turner family. The memorial scroll embedded in the picture states, “AMDG. In loving memory of John Goodwin Turner. Died Dec 23rd 1911. Aged 9 years also Thomas Turner. Died Feb 15th 1913 aged 26 years.
The Chapel can still be used by St. Botolph''s Church once a year (should they so desire).
* With thanks to the Tony Rowland of the Sir George Lisle''s Royalist Regiment of The Sealed Knot for bringing to light the true date of this event.