Broadstairs, Kent

Chapel of Our Ladye Star of the Sea, Broadstairs, Kent

The Chapel sits forgotten off the main street of Broadstairs and currently is a bookshop. This is a rather ignominious end for the oldest religious structure in the town.

The Chapel and its Shrine of Our Ladye Star of the Sea is thought to date to some time prior to 1070 when St. Peter’s Church (inland from the coast and once a separate community) was rebuilt in stone and flint. The Shrine itself seems to date to a period long before construction of any Chapel. At this time Broadstairs was still called Bradstowe.

The Shrine was, at some stage, moved down the hill to a place somewhere close to the shore at which time the Chapel was enlarged – circa 1350 – and two towers were added which became a major landmark for shipping in the area. A custom developed of ships dipping their top-sails when they passed the Shrine.

Another tradition developed here. That of the Royal Navy ‘showing the flag’ when at seaside towns to uphold morale is said to have its origins in 1514 when the crew of the Henry Grace a Dieu did just that during a service at the Bradstowe Chapel.

In the 1520s a massive storm, which lasted several days, hit the east coast of England. After days of being battered by wind and rain a massive tidal wave swept into Viking Bay and destroyed the Shrine completed and caused massive damage to the Chapel up on its hillside position.

The Chapel remained a ruin until 1601 when Sir John Culmer, one of the earliest Congregationalists, ordered the Chapel rebuilt and its Shrine restored. It is this structure that largely exists today, even through now it is squashed and almost invisible amongst later buildings.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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