Restoration of the Chapel

The Chapel is a remarkable building. Built under the Mastership of Matthew Wren, there is nothing else quite like it.

We recently completed the first phase of the restoration. The aluminium roof, installed in the 1950s, was failing. We had aimed to replace it with lead, but the structural engineers discovered that the stone facing, added by Perne over the original brickwork, was starting to peel away: a heavier lead roof could accelerate the process. So we compromised on lighter stainless steel, together with a series of ties to keep stone and brick together. While the scaffolding was up repairs were made to the decorative masonry on the outside of the Chapel, and the magnificent East Window, modelled after an engraving of Ruben’s Coup de Lance, was removed to Wells for restoration; clear glass was inserted in the intervening period and has remained in place to protect the restored glass . The heating has been replaced and the organ loft strengthened. 

We removed the Victorian choir stalls and, helped by a most generous donation, were able to restore the original seventeenth century benches we discovered underneath them. Without those central stalls the Chapel looks much larger and more elegant and (before COVID-19) the choir enjoyed their new-found flexibility so we have applied for a Faculty not to put them back.  We have also applied for a Faculty to restore the Munich windows and to replace the protective glass to prevent any further deterioration. This should make a significant difference to the interior of the Chapel as it will remove the dark brown varnish that was painted over the windows in the later nineteenth century.  With the organ removed for restoration, we have been able to undertake a dendrochronological study of the organ loft. A copy of the report can be found here. We have also commissioned an architectural survey of the organ loft to understand its development and will post it here when it becomes available.  

There are other projects that we would like to consider, such as removing the dark brown varnish from the wood panelling around the altar to reveal its original colour and handsome grain. A new lighting plan has been agreed and we are looking for two brass chandeliers - one with twelve branches, the other with sixteen - to replace the ones we have lost. Below is a tantalising picture of the Combination Room c. 1930 that shows what may have been those chandeliers in a different setting so we know what we are looking for. 

Donations towards the continuing work in the Chapel would be most welcome. You can either make a donation using the link below or, if you would like additional information, please contact Saskia.MurkJansen@pet.cam.ac.uk.

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