On 16 December 2021, members of the Radley History Club enjoyed an enjoyable and interesting visit to see the Chapel’s new extension with Estates Bursar, David Anderson.
The chapel was designed in 1893 by the famous Victorian architect Thomas Graham Jackson and is Grade II* Listed. In 2015, Purcell Architects won a design competition for an extension to the Chapel. Fortunately work on the extension was able to continue through the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, as it was a slow-moving traditional project with only a handful of workers on-site at any one time. Minor finishing touches were still being put in place on the day of the Club visit just after the end of term. Indeed the original chandelier from the chapel had yet to be rehung in the centre of the sanctuary roof.
The main aim of the extension was to create additional seating in the chapel to accommodate the significant increase in the number of pupils following the opening of a new boarding house. A secondary aim was the enhance the capabilities of the space, for example, to better accommodate larger groups of musicians.
The key element was the construction of a completely new sanctuary at the end of the chapel. This involved knocking out a large hole in the existing wall behind the altar without removing the glass from the large stained glass window above! The octagonal timber-framed roof of the new sanctuary (see below) was designed and constructed by Carpenter Oak Ltd.
Other changes included:
alterations to extend and strengthen the balcony to allow the installation of a magnificent new organ
the addition of two alcoves on each side of the top of the chancel, each providing 20 seats
installation of new pews in front of these alcoves indistinguishable from the existing pews
sourcing matching floor tiles for the space between the new pews and below the new stone arches leading to the sanctuary
lighting the chapel ceiling for the first time and installing LED lamps on all the pews
refurbishment of the 15th century reredos behind the altar
repositioning of memorials such as those to Old Radleians who died in the Boer War and the First World War on the walls next to the sanctuary
Above is the view from the top of the chancel looking towards the balcony and the new organ. Below is the view looking down the chancel towards the new sanctuary.
After the visit Club members enjoyed mince pies and a hot drink courtesy of Radley College.
Radley College’s new guide to the chapel has more about the history of the chapel and the recent work.
Dick started the tour with a brief history of the cemetery and its key features – the Stone of Remembrance, the Cross of Sacrifice, and a domed shelter containing a cabinet with a register of the burials and a copy of the cemetery plan. The tour group then moved around the cemetery, with Dick talking about a selection of the burials he’d researched and pointing out interesting graves such as those of the only two military women buried there (a nurse from the First World War and a WAAF from the Second World War) and those of the oldest and youngest men buried there.
The Botley War Graves Cemetery is the largest CWGC site in Oxfordshire with some 740 graves. It contains 156 Commonwealth burials from the First World War, during which the 3rd Southern General Hospital was housed in the Examination Schools and a number of other buildings in Oxford. In the Second World War, the cemetery was designated a Royal Air Force regional cemetery and was used by RAF stations in Berkshire and neighbouring counties. There are 516 Commonwealth burials (one of them unidentified) from this conflict. In addition to the Commonwealth war graves, there are some 70 graves of other nationalities (German, Italian, Belgian, Czech, Dutch, Polish), including that of the only Greek soldier buried in the UK. The cemetery became a CWGC cemetery in 1951; the yew hedge around the site dates from this time. The CWGC sits within the municipal cemetery, one of the four in the city of Oxford.
There were events on Saturday 15 June 2019 at all five stations along the line to celebrate the event – with the excitement and added bonus of two steam engines (Clun Castle and Flying Scotsman) passing through on excursions.
The celebrations at Radley began with the unveiling of a permanent board with a timeline of the history of Radley Station on the railings at Radley Station (on platform 1 for trains to Oxford and beyond). Radley History Club is very grateful for the grants from the Greening Lamborn Trust, Radley Village Shop, Radley Parish Council and GWR to cover the cost of the board. Entikera Limited provided extensive and indispensable support in kind.
Events then moved to the garden of the Bowyer Arms where there was:
a display of railway pictures and artefacts by Radley History Club, Friends of Radley Station and former railwayman and Radley resident Vic Gackowski, and the reminiscences of Harold Gasson, a former GWR fireman
storytellers Polly Mountain and Ed Blagrove in costume relating tales about Radley and the railway line
a display of work by children from Radley Primary School about the railway
Before the 11 am service on Sunday 18th February 2019, Club chairman Richard Dudding presented the Revd Rob Glenny with a framed list of the known incumbents of St James the Great from the middle of the 16th century to the present day. The new list replaces one that has hung near the church door since it was presented to the Church by the Club in October 2005. The replacement list adds some new names and corrects some minor errors found during research for the Club’s book, The Story of a Village Church: St James the Great, Radley published in October 2016. The book contains details about all the names on the list bar the last one, that of Rob Glenny who was appointed after the book’s publication.
The new list is in memory of Stanley Baker, the Club’s long-serving archivist who did much research into Radley vicars and was a committed attender at the Church. The Club is very pleased to have been able to use a bequest from Stan towards the cost of the replacement list.
The first meeting of Radley History Club was held on 14 May 1997. Before the main meeting on 8 May 2017, some 55 members and guests enjoyed a glass of bubbly and a piece of specially commissioned birthday cake to celebrate 20 years of Radley History Club. Chairman Richard Dudding called on Barbara Wootton, one of two of the founder members who is still a member today, to cut the cake which featured various aspects of Radley and Radley History Club. Barbara was assisted in this task by Rita Ford, who while not present at the first meeting, joined what was then a small group of enthusiasts in September 1997 and has been a stalwart of the Club ever since.
There was also a display, put together by Rita and Brian Ford, about the Club’s founding and events over the years. Copies of the Club’s many publications were also on show for members to look at while they enjoyed their drink and piece of cake.