Unearthing Bridge Chapel’s historic ‘mod cons’

Discoveries in historic buildings don’t always look ancient or remarkable, but that in no way diminishes their potential to fascinate.

This photograph shows something we already knew existed in the Bridge Chapel, but that fact hasn’t made it any less interesting.

Can you guess what it is?

These are some of the pipes that were installed during the 1937 refurbishment of the Bridge Chapel – for underfloor heating.

That’s right, the concept of underfloor heating is not a new thing, it was popular with the Romans and there’s archaeological evidence (not under our Bridge Chapel!) that a variation of underfloor heating using smoke was first put into practice around 7,000 years ago.

Our find isn’t even 100 years old, but we still think it’s an interesting demonstration that the modern improvements many of us are installing (or dreaming of installing) in our homes are really not particularly new.

What’s also interesting is the research these pipes prompted. Here’s a letter that was included in the 1936 minutes of a meeting of the Court of Wardens and Assistants.

The letter outlines costs for two different heating installations, including the temperatures to be obtained in each area.

You may be interested to know the Wardens chose Estimate 2. That left the rest of the “Court House” (the Victorian Bridge Chamber) reliant on its fireplaces. While we haven’t had to use those fireplaces in modern times, readers may be relieved to know a heating upgrade is part of our current internal refurbishment programme.

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