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Our School Chapel - a tour and personal recollection.

Our school chapel, completed in 1903, is built on the highest point of Kingham Hill and stands majestically at its peak. The founder's architect, William Howard Seth-Smith, had put a lot of thought and planning into its construction. Like most of the rest of the buildings on the hill it is constructed of local "oolite" stone quarried from the estate.

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Our historian standing in front of the chapel some 45 years ago.
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Designed in the traditional Cotswold style, stone blocks rough hewn, and laid in regular courses of varying depths. It is strongly built with decorated mouldings. The windows, divided into lights by the stone mullions, give dignity and beauty in a simple way. The founder never employed contractors, but only local craftsmen employed directly by him and using the best materials. On the 3 October 1903 it was dedicated by the Rev. W. Fisher.

It was obligatory for us boys to make our way into chapel via the main buildings of top school. Along the main corridor that ran parallel to the main hall and the Young Memorial Library. Up past the Science lab, turning left at the Biology room.

Down the last corridor that ran along past the vestry, the entrance to the janitor's cleaning store, and the stairs leading up to the Model Club room.

On reflection, I somewhat suspect this long journey had some practical advantages. We had the chance to wipe our feet on the large coconut mats positioned strategically in the corridors. We were sheltered from the bad weather so did not sit around in wet clothes fidgeting during the service. Finally, and probably more to the point, as the corridor narrowed down for its last twelve yards or so, we were squeezed into single file.

We soon learnt that, like Benedictine monks, a vow of silence was observed. We boys would emerge in silence at the alter end of chapel between the chapel organ and the lectern.

The pipe organ, built by J.Walker & Sons of London, was a gift to school by the founder's sister Margaret Young. It was installed about one year after the chapel was consecrated and dedicated by the Chaplain of the day, the Rev. F.J. Hazeledine. An eminent organist, Dr. Dodds of Queen's College Oxford, gave the first organ recital to close the service on the day of its dedication. More recently the association has paid for its refurbishment.

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Click here for
photographs of organ

 

Entering chapel in single file gave us time to reflect that we where in a place of reverence. This was certainly underlined to each of us individually as we made our way down the nave, along one of the two aisles, to take our place seated amongst our house groups beyond the choir pews.

Click here for high resolution
images of the chapel windows.

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Walking down towards the back of the chapel, looking up into the gallery on sunny days, your eyes would be dazzled by the coloured light streaming in through the main stained glass windows.

The kaleidoscope of colour made me appreciate once again that I was in a place of worship, God's House.

For those of us boys fortunate to be in either Sheffield or Norwich houses, our pews where at the far end of Chapel, right under the gallery, so we walked the whole length of the chapel to take our place. As we neared our pews, the picture in the stained glass windows became clearer. However it was only recently, while taking the pictures for this article some forty-five years on, that I ventured up into the gallery to view these windows close up.

I say fortunate because our pews, right at the back of the chapel, gave us the opportunity to view every thing that adorned the walls in detail as we walked in to take our place.

School choir pictures

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We also had a commanding view of what was going on around us during the services. Who dared to enter late, or who left early. Not one of us boys, oh no! We also had our house master and mistress seated directly behind keeping a watchful eye over us. When services were over we filed out in an orderly and reverent fashion

As you can see, the architect Seth Smith had given much thought to the planning of most if not all the woodwork. Pews, lectern, pulpit, organ case and doors, as well as the alter, were all made of English Oak. As we gazed around, no doubt dreaming during some of the sermons, there was enough ornate decoration on the walls to hold our attention and remind us that this was a place of worship, however humble.

Standing at the back of our chapel, with your back towards the wall looking down towards the alter, you will notice that most, if not all, of the plaques and tablets are on your left hand side.

I find it very poignant and moving that we had a band of brothers who went from The Hill and fought in the Great War 1914-18. Boys to men as has been the case many times over since then.

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WW1 Memorial
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I quote now from a few lines written by our founder on this event in our country's history. "No, surely not - the crisis when it came upon us eight years ago revealed the real spirit of the nation; and Kingham Hill has done its bit well. All honour to those who went out from this place and played their part so nobly; they have set an example to those who follow them here - a trumpet call to do their duty and play the man, whatever the consequences may be. And those who have fallen - they are not lost, but gone before. May God grant us a happy reunion with them in the great hereafter."

Sadly Kingam Hill School lost more sons within less than a decade of the dedication of this tablet. I hope that all former and current pupils might just spare a thought on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month each year."We shall remember them". I hope so.

Incomplete records show that more than 186 old boys served in the armed forces, but fewer where lost in the Second World War than in the Great War, thanks be to God. Many since have gone forth and served in various conflicts around the world.

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Visitors leaving chapel by the main door will notice this brass plaque that adorns the wall above these doors.

To those of you who are visitors to our school and chapel for the first time this simple brass plaque records another tragedy that hit our small community of brothers.

Moving back down towards the front of the chapel, past the organ and lectern, we come to the Alter - a simple oak table standing in front of the fine oak panelling. This simple table has served as the altar from our founder's time to the present day. Simplicity in itself.

There we find a simple brass cross placed on a plain cotton table cloth. For the sacraments, a fine silver chalice and silver plate - both donated by the association. Our historian recalls how in his day real bread was used for the services and that we knew which of the clergy had prepared the bread.

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The font
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Moving on round to your right you will find the font nestling tight at the base of the wooden steps leading up to the pulpit. Over the years many of the boys had the pleasure of being baptised in front of the whole school if certificates of baptism could not be produced from home.

We were baptised because later, in our fifth year and prior to our going out into the world, we where encouraged to be confirmed. Not obligatory, but for this you needed proof that you had been baptised. Again, our historian recalls being baptised by the Reverend Harry Wilkinson, at this very spot, some forty four years ago, and witnessed by most of his class mates, and the rest of the school.

There is one baptism tale that I heard recounted recently. A bright young lad, from Clyde house, persuaded the Padre that his mother had intended that John was not to be his only christian name. With due ceremony the boy was baptised John, Paul and George (after a late uncle, apparently) but the Padre drew the line at Ringo.

 

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