In 1577 Thomas Cecil inherited his family home of Burghley House near Stamford. He enlarged the towers of Snape castle and built the original oak staircase, transforming the castle by 1587 into an Elizabethan quadrangular house with Tudor-style rooms.
Eventually, however, all available money was being used to make Burghley house the finest house of its time and an agent was left in charge at Snape. He lived in one wing. The other three fell into disrepair and were never rebuilt. From 1720 onwards none of the Cecil family lived at Snape Castle and in 1798 the Milbank family of nearby Thorp Perrow bought Snape and amalgamated the two estates.
The Milbanks In the course of the early nineteenth century the Milbanks divided the remaining wing of Snape into two complete houses and, in the mid-twentieth century, the west end was sold and from then until quite recently, the castle remained in two ownerships. In 2003 the east end, the castle farm, was purchased by the owner of the west end and the castle was restored to a single ownership.
The Chapel There probably always was a chapel in the castle and it is first mentioned in the early sixteenth century. Situated on an upper floor of a building on the south side of what remains a substantial part of the castle, it is approached from ground level up some steps by an outer door and ascending stairs to the chapel itself. At the top of the stairs is a vestry and examination of the ceiling above the vestry suggests that the wall to the rear has been added at some time after construction of the castle. Although it has not been possible to confirm it, this may well have been the route from the castle to the chapel.
Restorations The chapel has undergone several restorations and Charles Cecil in about 1720 is said to have ‘beautified and made the chapel in Snape House useful’; it is a rare example of a pre-Reformation domestic chapel, but at the end of the eighteenth century the chapel fell into disrepair and was used as a grain and rape-seed store.
At some time prior to his death in 1802 William Milbank of Thorp Perrow,used oak from the castle ruins to create the paneling around the chapel, In 1836 the floor was repaired and moveable benches introduced by his son Mark Milbank to render the chapel suitable for religious services as the domestic chapel of Thorp Perrow Hall.
Lady Augusta Milbank A further phase of refurbishment was embarked upon by Mark Milbank following the death of his wife Lady Augusta Henrietta Milbank in September 1874.
There is also a memorial on the south wall, just above the old harmonium organ, which refers to the restoration undertaken by Mark Milbank.
The window on the right of the ascending stairs from the front door is in three sections containing decorative stained glass featuring a recurring pattern of the initials MM and HM (Mark Milbank and Henrietta Milbank).
The Verrio Ceiling The fifteenth-century roof of the chapel was taken down in the late seventeenth century to allow a plaster ceiling to be constructed on which a fresco was painted by the Italian artist Antonio Verrio (who died in 1707)