Club visit to Radley College chapel

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.

Exterior of the newly extended chapel at Radley College, Oxfordshire, in December 2021
Radley College Chapel with its new sanctuary, December 2021

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.

Octagonal timber ceiling of the new sanctuary
The timber ceiling of the new sanctuary , December 2021

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
Members of Radley History Club view the mangnicent new organ at the far end of the chapel

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.

View towards the new sanctuary at Radley College chapel, December 2021

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.