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|2372: The Chapel
of Christ's Hospital, Horsham, West Sussex
Worshipper: Eruresto Nyellë.
Chapel of Christ's Hospital, Horsham, West Sussex.
of England, Diocese
The chapel, with inward-facing pews and a gallery, is one of
the few buildings in the school capable of holding the entire
school at once. Its capacity ranges from a comfortable 850-900,
but has been known to squash in 1000 once or twice. A listed
building, it has the third largest unsupported oak ceiling in
Europe (the first and second being in the school’s dining room
and "Big School" respectively). Along both sides are
a series of cartoons by the 20th century Anglo-Welsh artist
Frank Brangwyn portraying the spread of the gospel. The stonework
at the south end (the chapel is rotated 90° in relation to most
churches due to the layout of the school) portrays Christ the
King and the apostles, and was funded by donations from former
pupils, or "Old Blues". The chapel is also one of
the few places in the country to have a stained glass representation
of Henry VIII.
Christ's Hospital was founded in 1552 partly in response to
a sermon preached by the Bishop of London before King Edward
VI drawing the young King's attention to the plight of orphaned
and homeless children in the City of London. It is almost unique
for a British independent school in that it educates a proportion
of its students free, and most at a reduced rate. The entire
school worships in the chapel twice per week: once as a whole
group on Sunday, and divided into lower and upper years on Tuesdays
and Wednesdays. In addition, the chaplaincy runs a variety of
activities, among which are compline, quiet time, and the Christian
Union. Traditionally the stance of the chapel has been on the
liberal side of the spectrum, particularly in compulsory worship
when all pupils are expected to attend, regardless of religious
The chapel is geographically at the heart of the school, as
one side of the school’s main quadrangle. The school itself
is over half a mile wide and about a third of a mile deep, but
most of that depth is playing fields. The majority of the school’s
buildings are along "the Avenue", which runs along
the length of the school and hosts 16 of the school’s boarding
houses, as well as opening onto other quadrangles and areas.
The school has its own railway station, which used to be twice
its current size – the old line from Guildford to Shoreham has
been disused since the 1960s and now is a popular bridleway.
The Revd Stephen Golding, senior chaplain, led and preached.
The choir was made up of former (and one or two current) pupils
who had volunteered and was under the baton of Andrew Cleary,
music director. The organ was played by the school’s organist,
The date & time:
Saturday, 28 April 2012, 12.00pm.
What was the name of the
Chapel Service (I probably ought to explain that it was part
of a whole-day school reunion called Old Blues Day and not a
How full was the building?
One choir stall was filled with about 50 people. About 100 to
150 other people attended in the congregation.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
There was a welcome in Big School to the main day, but other than the sacristan (a current pupil), there was no welcome to the chapel itself.
Was your pew comfortable?
Perfectly adequate for my needs.
How would you describe the pre-service
The choir rehearsal ran almost into the service itself, and the congregation came in around the same time as the start of the rehearsal. There was a mixture of a buzz as people saw and chatted to old friends, and a hush as they entered the chapel where they had spent so much time at school (whether willingly or no).
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning, and welcome to the Chapel."
What books did the congregation use during the
The Christ’s Hospital Hymnbook.
What musical instruments
The chapel’s organ, a five-manual opus of the Liverpool firm
of Rushworth and Dreaper. On full blast, which it was in this
service, it is phenomenally loud. It is the only five-manual
Rushworth and Dreaper in existence and the largest organ in
the country outside of a cathedral. There was also the volunteer
Did anything distract
The school's Tudor uniform belted long blue coat (hence
the name Old Blues), knee-breeches, yellow socks, and a white
band at the neck has been worn since 1552. The students
voted in 2011 to retain the traditional uniform. It is a quaint
and nostalgic link to the past, but a distraction nonetheless.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Very traditional, but not exactly Anglo-Catholic. It was a simple
service of hymns, anthem, sermonette and prayers. The three
hymns and the anthem were all school favourites indeed,
two of the hymns and the anthem had been composed for the school,
and the other was "How shall I sing that Majesty?"
with a descant written by a former director of music.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Chaplain Golding spoke in a way appropriate to the
situation – that is to say, a group of nostalgic former pupils,
only some of whom were of faith – but without descending into
platitudes with no real meaning.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The sermon rotated around John 1:1-14 (John summarizes the nature
of God, the relationship between God the Father and God the
Son, and the mission of God the Son on earth). He focussed on
the phrase "full of grace and truth." "The Word
was made flesh, and dwelt among us" just as Bishop Ridley's
words inspired the young King Edward VI to found Christ’s Hospital.
The bishop's words became flesh in the school. The chaplain
then turned to parable of the Prodigal Son, and related it to
Old Blues leaving and coming home to the school. May the school
community be "full of grace and truth."
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The communal hymn singing, which is such a part of life at Christ’s Hospital.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I would be hard pressed to think of anything! It was all wonderful to some extent.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
There was no time - we all filed out to get to the main quadrangle
in time for Band Parade (another big tradition of the school
the entire pupil body marches into lunch six days a week).
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
People had either booked themselves into a two-course lunch
or brought a picnic. I had done the latter, although we ate
inside due to the terrible weather!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 It would hardly be possible unless I became either
a teacher or a chaplain, but that aside, somewhere high in the
8-9s. The chapel walls are soaked in hundreds of years of prayer.
It is practically sacred ground to me.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Worshipping in the place where I came to faith.
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