The entrance to the King’s Chapel crypt, an exterior gate located below the chancel, was the only door to the burial space prior to the early-20th century. Each person buried in the crypt was transported across this stone threshold. Unlike rural cemeteries where there are few barriers between families and their departed loved ones, the exterior archway served as an intentional partition between the sanctuary, a space for the living, and the crypt, a space for the dead. After a burial service in the sanctuary above, coffins had to be carried out the main doors and then around to the back crypt entrance.
Upon entering the crypt, one would have to light their own way to the tombs lining the walls. The tombs simply had gates at their entrances, so the smell of decaying remains inside would have been overwhelming. The tombs were not elaborately decorated since crypt was not seen as a place to memorialize the dead. Instead, memorials were often placed inside the chapel so the living could more visibly remember their loved ones.
As fire and building codes became mandatory in the 1920s, additional entrances were added to the King’s Chapel crypt and sanctuary. Pew ownership diminished at this time, and a staircase was dug down into one of the pews in the sanctuary previously owned by members of the congregation and was converted into an interior entrance to the crypt. A second pew on the School Street-side of the chancel was removed to create an emergency exit, also allowing easier exterior access to the crypt’s stone stairs below. Due to their convenience, the interior and exterior entrances are used far more regularly today than they were historically.