Giggleswick School Chapel is one of the most iconic buildings in Yorkshire, and is the subject of a new guidebook made possible by a generous gift from an Old Giggleswickian. As well as facilitating the guidebook, John Duxfield has helped to set up the Giggleswick School Chapel Fund, to help maintain the building for the future. The School chapel is unusual being a domed building in such a rural setting. It has been a familiar landmark since it was built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897. With access to an array of original documents – archivist Barbara Gent has pieced together the story of how the dream to provide a chapel with a dome became reality.
Barbara said “The chapel was the gift of Walter Morrison, a significant local landowner, school governor, MP and devoted friend of the school. He appointed Thomas Jackson, a celebrated architect and designer, whose work on many Oxford University colleges and several public schools was outstanding. The archives include a letter written from the private secretary of Queen Victoria, who was staying at Balmoral, expressing her delight at the drawing of the proposed new chapel, which had been sent to her.
“Walter Morrison travelled extensively in his youth and noted on a visit to the Holy Land how well domed buildings sat in the rocky and hilly countryside. Years later, he decided a domed chapel would suit the area near the school and that Thomas Jackson was the man for the challenge.”
Building started in October 1897, the foundation stone laid by the Duke of Devonshire, and the opening took place in October 1901. Sadly, Queen Victoria died before its completion. Much of the work was carried out by eminent national craftsmen. For example, the stained glass was by Burlison and Grylls; the glass mosaics were executed by James Powell of Whitefriars with the assistance of men who had worked with him some years before on the mosaics of St Paul’s Cathedral. The organ was the work of famous instrument builder Henry Willis; the fine wood and stone carvings, depicting the local flora, executed by Farmer and Brindley of London. Major re-roofing in 1996-7 restored the, by then, weathered green dome to its original copper finish.
Barbara said “The locals, used to seeing the familiar green dome, were less pleased when the dome had to be re-covered in the 1990s and became coppery brown in colour. So distinctive was the green dome that it is alleged that during World War Two the Luftwaffe used it as a point of navigation on their way to bomb Liverpool.”
The chapel, its fixtures and furnishings plus the associated gatehouse and cricket pavilion, cost £30,817– which equates to almost £3.6m in today’s money.* Barbara uncovered the original accounts, which reveal that the dome masonry cost £587 (the equivalent of £68,500 today). Mosaics to decorate the interior of the dome cost more than £3,500 (£408,000). Stained glass came in at almost £1,500 (£175,000)*.
John Duxfield said “The chapel is an architecturally important building in the wider context and I wished to support its maintenance for the long term. The fund is a fitting tribute to that great benefactor, Walter Morrison, without whose generosity there would be no chapel.”
Giggleswick School Chapel, A guide in support of the Chapel Fund, is available to buy direct from the school. It’s ISBN is 978-1-5272-3096-5.