A Bridge Chapel is a small place of Christian worship, built either on, or immediately adjacent to, a road bridge; they were generally established during the mediaeval times.
Although sometimes built on land at the very start of the bridge, bridge chapels were often built into the bridge structure itself, usually on one of the piers which had been made especially large for the purpose. These chapels were intended to minister to the spiritual needs of travellers passing over the bridge. At a time when travelling was not without risks, Travellers would pray for a safe journey on leaving the town and give thanks for the safe journey at the end. Many were established as chantries, where a priest was employed to say masses for travellers and sometimes for the repose of the souls of the bridge’s benefactors. In some instances, the priest would be responsible for collecting tolls from bridge users.
Wetherby’s Bridge was built in 1233 by Walter de Gray Archbishop of York funded by selling indulgences – the promise of sins forgiven.
Thomas Girtin who painted Wetherby bridge (above) painted several other pictures of ecclesiastical buildings in Yorkshire.
One of England’s best preserved Chapels on a Bridge is on Wakefield Town Bridge and is well worth a visit.
Thank you to Michael Hare for providing this information