The Greyladyes Chapel, or The Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary to give it its formal title, has had various uses from its inception as a ballroom to its future role as an arts Centre. We believe that the structure was originally as a ballroom extension to the main house, Greyladyes (which at the time was called Elm Lodge). Although we have found no specific evidence, we believe that it was built in about 1868 by William Charles Humphreys, owner of Elm Lodge and Sheriff of Hampshire. This date would coincide with many alterations and repairs that Humphreys conducted on other buildings on the estate. In 1873 Elm Lodge was rented to the recently married Captain Shawe-Storey and his wife, Emmaline. There are accounts from this time that suggest that the ballroom was being used by the village as a community hall providing a venue for Parish Council meetings and the like.
In 1905 everything changed when Captain Shawe-Storey died suddenly at Christmas time. Mrs Shawe-Storey, who had become a very prominent figure in the village, was devastated. Soon after her husband’s death she bought the estate (it was still owned by W C Humphreys), change the name from Elm Lodge to Greyladyes (named after a ghost at her ancestral home in Northumberland) and converted to Catholicism. In 1906 work to convert the ballroom into a private chapel began.
The people of Bursledon did not take kindly to her rejection of the Church of England. Although it sounds extraordinary now, the brick wall surrounding the house was extended upwards due to threats of violence and indeed to protect Mrs Shawe-Storey from the bricks that had been thrown through the windows of Greyladyes. The building of the chapel faced sabotage from local people when the workman’s tools continuously ‘went missing’. The project was deeply controversial and very unpopular but Mrs Shawe-Storey was a woman of determination and the work continued. The Gothic bell cote reaching above the high wall is the only evidence of what lies behind. Once the work was complete Mrs Shawe-Storey set to work on the interior. Nikolaus Pevsner describes the interior in the entry in ‘Buildings of England’ as “furnished to embarrassing richness with Continentalittings, mostly wooden, mostly Baroque, mostly German.” Whether to ones taste or not, the interior was spectacular. Over time Mrs Shawe-Storeys conversion was accepted and the harmony between the two churches was confirmed with her gift to St Leonard’s (the Parish church) of land to extend the Church of England cemetery, which had been under pressure to cope since the Boer War.
The Greyladyes Chapel functioned as Mrs Shawe-Storey’s private place of worship (along with a few servants who had also converted) until her death in 1937. In her will the main house and accompanying chapel were left to the monks of Douai Abbey near Reading. Unfortunately they were unable to pay the death duties and the house passed into the hands of a nephew who had been left the rest of her estate (most of Bursledon and her family seat, Arcot Hall in Northumberland). He immediately sold off Greyladyes and it was swiftly requisitioned by the army on the outbreak of World War II. During the war it was home to mainly Canadian troops and it is believed that one of these soldiers was responsible for the disappearance of the chapel’s second Angelus Bell. The story is that during some drunken revelry the bell was removed and broken. The bell was never replaced.
After the war the house was bought by a Southampton property developer who divided Greyladyes into four properties and sold the chapel to Catholic Church. The organ was removed to St. Patrick’s in Woolston. The Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary served the local Catholic community until May 2004 when it was declared redundant. GAF was then formed to try to save the building for the community. In October 2005 the remaining furnishings were removed by the Portsmouth Diocese and are currrently in storage. The chapel has been an important feature of Bursledon for over 130 years and our aim is to continue its use as a building to serve local people.