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I have driven passed the gorgeous Rickford Chapel SO many times. Ever since I was at Bath Spa University. Which, admittedly, was some time ago now. But, I never knew what it was.
Imagine driving passed an incredible building for nearly a decade and not knowing its name?! Every time I would drive by, I would say to myself “I have to find out where this is”.
So, when it popped up on my Instagram feed one day with no location tag, I became determined to find this mysterious ancient building tucked away in the middle of Somerset.
I tracked down its coordinates and found out that its location was in a cute Hamlet called Rickford. This beautiful building was the Old Methodist Chapel of Rickford Pond. Finally, I found it!
Now, all that was left was to go and visit. So, that’s what I did. Here’s a complete guide for the forgotten Rickford Chapel of Burrington Parish, a Swiss-like gem in Somerset!
The history of Rickford Chapel
I truly feel that Rickford Chapel is long forgotten in the chapters of history as there is SO little information about it. Even if you look online at the likes of Historic England. Hence why it’s so mysterious and interesting!
The Chapel sits in the Parish of Burrington that has a history dating back to the Saxon Era when it originally belonged to the Manor of Wrington. Wrington was gifted to Duke Ethelfrith in 904AD by King Edward who was the son of Alfred the Great.
Rickford sits around a half-mile away from Burrington and has a Mill Pond that is fed by Blagdon Combe. The Mill House nearby was built in the 17th century during the reign of James I.
Rickford Pond used to feed a paper mill and flour mill which were both built in the 18th century. The paper mill produced handmade paper until 1895 and the flour mill was unfortunately destroyed by fire.
The Swiss like Rickford Chapel that sits on the edge of the pond was built in 1888 to serve as a Baptist Chapel. This was commissioned by the Wills Family who owned the estate. They were famously known for their Tobacco Empire in Bristol!
Over time, it became known as the Old Methodist Chapel and eventually, it closed in the 1960s. From 1965 until 2017 the church served as a Masonic Lodge for the Forest of Mendip Somerset Freemasons.
Nearby, you’ll find a similar Swiss looking building called The Gauge House which was built in 1895 by the Bristol Waterworks Company. Underneath it is regulating weirs which control the flow of water from the Yeo to Blagdon Water Works. It has an underground pipe that leads to Blagdon Lake just a few miles away.
Rickford Chapel today
Today, the historic chapel is still sitting pretty on the Northern foot of the Mendip Hills but I don’t believe it’s currently serving any purpose other than that!
The Somerset Freemasons ended their meetings at the Forest of Mendip Lodge in 2017 and it seems like the building is desolate. As its private property, there is no option to investigate or go inside.
I have done a little digging online and it seems that the property is now up for let! It describes the building as being “Grade II listed with historic features, having a large mezzanine area and spiralling staircase”. It’s up for a 3-year lease at £5,000-£7,000 per annum – not bad if you have the money going spare! It would be a lovely property to have as a summer retreat. But, there are no toilets at the moment.
Although it’s private, that doesn’t mean you cannot go and admire it from the outside. As a photography location in Somerset, it’s a hard one to beat. You’d be forgiven if you thought this chapel belonged somewhere in the Swiss Countryside. It certainly fooled me.
How to visit Rickford Chapel in Somerset
Visiting the Hamlet of Rickford and the Chapel is quite easy as it’s located on a main through road to Bath in the Mendip Hills. If you take the A368 that heads towards Marksbury near Bath, you’ll find the village a few miles away from Burrington Combe with the famous ‘Rock of Ages’.
The only problem comes with the entrance being on an extremely sharp turn near a blind bend to get into the hamlet and it isn’t well signposted at all.
It’s a National Speed Limit road and so you should have a SatNav or Google Maps on your phone to warn you when you’re going to turn off.
The chapel is located on the main road and due to the nature of the sharp turn, you shouldn’t park by the wall itself.
Rickford does not have a dedicated car park for visitors as there are little to no facilities. So, I would recommend finding a spot in the village where you can park with consideration. Then walk up to Rickford chapel from there.
Rickford Photography tips
As the chapel is on private property you will be taking photos from outside and the boundary wall of Rickford Pond is on the main road of the A368.
So, you can take photos safely on the corner turning by the cascade at the side of the chapel. But, if you wanted to take photos of the church with the reflection in the pond – you will have to step out onto the main road and take photos through the gaps in the hedgerows there.
There is no footpath and, as it’s a National Speed Limit road, it is quite a hair raising as you see cars coming towards you. But, cars can spot you easily from a distance and move around. Just be careful and avoid rush hours.
The best time to take photos would be early morning or mid-day. As you can see from my shots, I visited on a sunny afternoon and by then the lighting was too harsh.
Why not explore the Hamlet of Rickford?
Rickford is a gorgeous rural village that sits in the Mendip Hills and so provides the perfect base for sightseeing around the area! However, the hamlet in itself is a beautiful place to explore as well.
If you follow the old leat nearby you’ll end up at the Gauge House which is still powered by Bristol Water Works. Just after that, you’ll find the Mill House, this 17th-century building is now an impressive B&B where you can stay for the night! Click here for more details.
Next door, you’ll find the Plume of Feathers pub which is popular with locals and walkers in the summer months. It has an amazing menu with locally inspired dishes!
After that, you can stroll along with the Village with its quaint river and visit the Ford where Rickford gets its name. Plus, being right in the heart of the Mendips AONB, you’ll find a wealth of beauty spots and attractions just nearby.
Explore the beauty of the Mendip Hills & Somerset!
So, what is there to explore nearby? Well, Rickford is in the parish of Burrington, so you could explore the old village that still has a 17th-century pump house. Or, explore the Grade I Holy Trinity Church.
Further on you have Blagdon Lake which is famous for its fly-fishing and swimming. It covers 440 acres and was created by Bristol Water in 1898 when it dammed the River Yeo.
Burrington Combe is an amazing limestone gorge that is very popular. It’s easily accessible and there are plenty of walks around it. You could visit the Rock of Ages or go exploring the many caves that have formed around here such as Aveline’s Hole!
Further on, you have the incredible Cheddar Gorge, the largest gorge in the country. Or, why not visit Wells which is a gorgeous cathedral city on the fringes of Somerset Levels? Glastonbury Tor and Burrow Mump are nearby which provide incredible views.