The Life of the Chapel
The School gathers for worship here every Tuesday and Thursday morning for Morning Prayer (a short service of readings, hymns and prayers lasting 20 minutes), and on Sunday Evenings for College Evensong or the College Eucharist. Major feasts and seasons of the Church’s calendar are focal points of the College year, including the Remembrance-tide services, the Festival of Lessons & Carols for Christmas (a liturgy composed by Wellington’s first Master, the Rt. Rev. Edward White Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury), and Speech Day. Harvest-tide, Advent, Lent, Easter, Ascension, and Whitsun (Pentecost) are also marked by the College worshipping together in its beautiful Chapel. Each year, pupils from any year group may be prepared for Baptism and Confirmation, which is celebrated in November by a visiting Bishop.
Chapel services, in all their beauty and solemnity, play a vital part in shaping the theological, moral and spiritual development of our pupils, of whatever culture or religious background. They are complemented by a number of other religious groups and societies, several of which meet in the Crypt Chapel of the Epiphany: Open Door, Jewish Society, and Bible Study. All pupils are cared for by the Chaplain, who also ensures that pupils of other Christian Communions (e.g. Roman Catholic Church) or other faiths (e.g. Jewish or Muslim pupils) are ministered to appropriately.
Each House in College takes a turn as the ‘Duty House’ at Sunday Chapel, with a special role in reading lessons, serving, welcoming guests, taking the collection. Parents are welcome at Sunday Chapel services, particularly those led by their son or daughter’s House.
The College’s renowned Chapel Choir is made up of pupils and staff from across the School who – complemented by our fine Harrison & Harrison organ – greatly enrich the worship and support Wellington’s fine tradition of hymn singing.
The History of the Chapel
When Wellington first opened in 1859, no chapel had yet been built, and services were held in the empty Orange dormitory. The first Master, Edward White Benson, made the construction of a permanent chapel one of his highest priorities, and energetically sought donations to help pay for it. The foundation stone of the chapel was laid by Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, in 1861. Two years later, on 16 July 1863, the Chapel was formally opened. The building was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, a leading architect of the Victorian Gothic Revival, with much influence from Edward White Benson. Benson was concerned with every detail of the Chapel, from both an aesthetic and a symbolic point of view, choosing the subjects for decorations such as the stained-glass windows, mosaics and carvings.
For the first hundred years, all students attended chapel every morning and twice on Sundays. The original building was much narrower than it is now, so to accommodate a growing school population, extensions first on the north and then the south side were added under the direction of architect Sir Arthur Blomfield. By 1900, the floor plan was as it appears today. In the early 1920s the old organ in the North Aisle was replaced by the College’s impressive war memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, while an organ loft and the present Harrison organ were installed above the entrance. During the Second World War a bomb destroyed most of the original Victorian windows, so most of those visible today are post-War. Behind the altar and in the antechapel are particularly fine examples of 1950s windows, designed by Old Wellingtonian Hugh Easton, while the most recent windows date from 2015. Memorials to former teaching staff and pupils have been added throughout the Chapel’s history. In 1985 an underground Crypt Chapel for quiet and personal worship was opened next to the Chapel.