The principal of St Joseph’s College, Mrs Danielle Clarke said: “Three years’ evaluation, repair and upgrading, together with tireless fundraising and wonderful generosity from the St Joseph’s College community and beyond, have given us back ‘the heart of St Joseph’s’, even more beautiful than we remembered. We are immensely grateful to all who have helped make this happen.”
Bishop Alan gave his blessing to the reopening in a special ceremony. “The closure of our Chapel came as a blow,” said Mrs Clarke. “We created a new meeting space, The ARC – reflecting the College’s key words of Aspiration, Respect and Confidence – and it has seen us through very well. Indeed, it will be an additional asset going forward. But the excitement around the reopening is palpable.”
With its clean internal lines, Mondrian inspired stained glass and dramatic Verdigris roof, the handsome chapel has been a much-loved feature of the College since it was built on land between the Senior and Prep Schools, opening in 1967. It became the gathering point for the whole school for assemblies, prize-giving ceremonies, concerts and worship; the calm yet inspiring space families came to on first looking for a school for their children and the nostalgic setting for final goodbyes for Sixth Formers.
Sadly, a flaw in the dramatic 1960s design allowed rain damage to accumulate and back in February 2017 the building was closed. A subsequent inspection established the extent of the damage and consultations began on how to restore ‘the heart of St Joseph’s’.
The internal upgrade has been a revelation, enhancing what was already a majestic space. St Joseph’s has crowned the refurbishment by bringing in a magnificent Model D Steinway grand piano, formerly in use by the Royal Conservatoire, Glasgow.
Although the Chapel remains as dear to St Joseph’s College community now as it was on first opening, much has changed at the school in the past half century. What was once a Catholic school for boys has long been a co-educational school guided by Christian values but welcoming children of all faiths and none.
The photographs show students at St Joseph’s in the chapel (top) and Bishop Alan speaking at the college (centre). Pictures by Eleanor Piggott