Lancing College Chapel West Porch

Sussex is full of iconic structures including the Balcombe Viaduct, Arundel Castle and the Royal Pavilion. Above all of these though, a photograph of Lancing College Chapel was chosen for the front cover of Pevsner’s guide to the buildings of our great historic county.

The western end of this Grade I listed building is unfinished and I applaud the way in which it was deliberately left to look as such. Brick was used instead of stone on that end’s buttresses so that nobody is left in any doubt that more work is to be done. In Hove alone, a number of buildings are missing their proposed prominent features. Perhaps it would be a different story if more people were aware of the omissions. The missing towers of St John the Baptist’s Church, All Saints Church and even Hove Town Hall spring to mind for example.

The initial vision for Lancing College emanated from the school’s founder, the Reverend Nathaniel Woodard. He founded a group of schools which includes Hurstpierpoint College and Ardingly College. Work began on Lancing College, designed by R. C. Carpenter, in 1848. Work began on the chapel though, designed by his son R. H. Carpenter along with William Slater, in 1868. The chapel reached its current state in stages and remains unfinished.

Many remember the west wall of the chapel when it was covered with corrugated iron. It wasn’t until 1978 in fact that a scheme by architect Stephen Dykes Bower could be completed which incorporated the famous rose window. It was then that the wall was deliberately left unfinished so that momentum to build a porch would not diminish.

A design for the porch was published by Dykes Bower’s successor, Alan Rome, in 2001 and planning permission was granted in 2009. I was lucky enough to be present to see the foundation stone of the new porch being laid by Sir Robert Woodard, the great-grandson of the founder of Lancing College. The Portland stone tablet marks the beginning of a huge project to raise £3 million to complete one of the greatest buildings in our wonderful county and, indeed, the largest school chapel in the world. I have no doubt whatsoever that the venture will be a success.

Before updating readers on progress, I will be writing about several other buildings at Lancing College, including the Reeve Art School that was designed by Brighton-based LCE Architects.