Having moved the school to the current site in 1898, the founding Lawrence sisters were determined to establish a beautiful Chapel at Roedean, and they commissioned the renowned architect, Sir John Simpson, as he had designed the main school buildings. He had a great deal of experience with schools, having designed new buildings at both Lancing College and Haileybury School. Five hundred people gathered for the dedication of the Chapel in May 1906.
The considerable costs of the building's shell, at £7000, meant that some of the interior decorations could only be procured when money had been raised or donated. Fortunately, the Chapel and Organ Funds had been established early, with the result that the three-manual organ, the marble flooring in the sanctuary and the nave, and the sanctuary's arched ornamental ceiling were already in place before the dedication. The many other pieces of furniture and decorations in the Chapel were the gifts of ORs or relations of the Lawrence family, including the chancel-rail and pulpit, as indeed was the beautiful fountain in the Cloisters.
As Important Today as it Ever Was
The Chapel is the spiritual heart of the school, surrounded by a sense of calm, and it serves as a place of quiet reflection for many girls and members of staff, whatever their religious beliefs. The girls sit on pews which have been donated over the years, enveloped in the history of the building, not least looking at the ensign of HMS Vernon, displayed proudly to mark the time when the girls were evacuated from Brighton during World War II, and the school was used by the Navy for the training of cadets at the Torpedo and Mining School.
Dorothy Lawrence was passionate about music, and from the outset it played a central role in the Chapel. The same is the case today, and we are fortunate to have a wonderful choir, led by Miss Veronica Fewkes, which enhances our weekly Chapel services on Friday mornings. In addition, concerts are regularly performed in the Chapel, taking full advantage of its outstanding acoustic; there are regular lunchtime recitals given by students, the Music Department’s major events often take place there, and we are proud that the Chapel plays host each year to one of the concerts of the Brighton Festival Fringe, bringing together the school’s orchestras and choirs with members staff and local performers, and allowing the most talented musicians in their final year of school to perform a concerto movement with a full orchestra.