The Chapel is at the heart of the School – literally and metaphorically.
When the School moved to its present site from the town centre, the Chapel was one of the first buildings to be constructed; the architect was Sir Arthur Blomfield. The first service took place on the 4th November 1883.
Shrewsbury School is a religious foundation of King Edward VI and our chapel services are conducted according to the rites of the Church of England. This means that the School Chaplain is an Anglican Priest and Sunday services are similar to those you would find in any Anglican parish church. We have a robed choir which sings for every service. The choir also sings evensong regularly at various cathedrals.
The Director of Chapel Music, Alex Mason, is responsible for arranging the music for all chapel services. At the moment, the whole School, less one boarding house by rotation, attends chapel on a Sunday morning at 10am when there is an address. Occasionally there are whole school services in the evening at 8.30pm by candlelight. Please also see our page on the Chapel Choir.
At the beginning of the Michaelmas Term each year, members of the School walk down into the town and attend a service in St Mary’s Church, where boys went on Sundays in the 19th century when the School was without its own chapel. Our historic association with the town of Shrewsbury is again affirmed, when annually in March, the Mayor and Corporation come up to attend a service in the Chapel.
During the week, the Third Form (first year) pupils attend chapel as a year group on a Monday, the Sixth Form on a Friday and the middle two years (Fourth and Fifth Forms) on a Tuesday. These mid-week services employ a great variety of formats. Plays and poetry feature in these mid-week services, as do live music and recordings, talks from members of staff and pupils alike.
The three Carol Services in Advent are spectacular candlelit occasions, which attract large congregations of parents and Old Salopians.
Ash Wednesday is marked by a School Eucharist and at the end of the Summer Term a special Leavers’ Service attended by leaving pupils and their parents, celebrates all the positive benefits of five years spent in a community such as ours.
In the first half of the Summer Term, leaving Upper Sixth form pupils are interviewed by their Tutor about the lessons they have learned in their time at the School. These interviews are followed by a reflective piece of music played by pupils. The emphasis mid-week is on variety, informality and strong pupil involvement.
Pupils are prepared annually for Confirmation, which is conducted by the Bishop of Shrewsbury at the beginning of the Summer Term. They are invited to consider this step in their first two years at the School.
Roman Catholic pupils in the School are welcome to attend Mass on a Sunday at the Cathedral in the town if they so wish. About 10% of pupils come from overseas and have a very different religious tradition from our own. Most are happy to attend our services and, if they wish, may attend a place of worship of their own at the weekend and observe their own great religious festivals in the year. A few pupils opt out of chapel services altogether.
The Chapel is floodlit by night and the interior is warm and inviting.
New choir stalls, beautifully designed by Luke Hughes and Co of Covent Garden with their array of spirit burning choir lights covered in gold leaf, give the choir an elevated position to lead our Sunday worship. A magnificent series of abstract ceramics fitted to the wood panelling of the nave walls and to the front of the gallery was commissioned from Victoria Dark. These are a celebration of light and colour and life, and as a junior boy observed ‘They are not anything, but leave you free to have your own thoughts and feelings’.
The magnificent pew runners were designed by Jane Dillon who worked for many years in textiles at the Royal College of Art in London. They capture the silver ripples of the River Severn and run through the colour chart – blue to green and yellow to orange, to deep red at the entrance of the chapel. They suggest the power and strength of a young life and the onward movement of all life. They were given, as were the ceramics, in memory of two much loved members of the school. Jane also designed the altar cloth which is also abstract and very much her own creation, yet, whose green, giving way to an emergent yellow, suggests a Turner painting. A sun will arise. It will be big.
The eye is led down the nave to the altar and to the reredos of Christ on the road to Emmaus and this late Victorian sculpture, is flanked by six saints – Francis, Caecelia, John, Chad, Winifred and Nicholas. These wonderful frescoes set against a sea of gold leaf were commissioned from Aidan Hart, Britain’s leading icon painter in June of 2007.