As the nation has been in lockdown for the past 12 weeks, the doors to the Chapel have been closed to visitors during the COVID-19 crisis and the College campus has remained empty as pupils and staff have been working and learning from home.
Work towards the completing of the new west end porch has been considerably affected by the Covid crisis, but not stopped. The Friends, the College and the contractors managed to agree a safe strategy to continue with the project, and work started on site only a few days behind schedule. Stone carving has progressed at the mason’s yard of Chichester Stoneworks, albeit following the UK’s lockdown restrictions and social distancing requirements.
Lancing College staff who live on site have been able to witness the recent changes at the front of the Chapel: the area outside the main doors has been fenced off and groundwork has commenced to reinforce the existing foundations. A concrete slab has been laid one metre down, linking the existing pile caps to enable the foundations to take the weight of the new arches and buttress extensions. Some of the existing north wall has been broken out, ready to take the new ashlar retaining wall which will be part of the new porch.
From June 2020 a scaffold will be erected and it will gradually follow work levels as the building progresses, up to just under the rose window. Work on the retaining wall and rainwater drainage system has started, and a section of worked Doulting stone walling has been approved by the architect, local authority and all stakeholders prior to actual construction. The stone and the workmanship are of very high quality.
Sadly, due to the COVID crisis the majority of the fundraising events planned to support the project have been cancelled. This would have included the Flower Festival ‘Sense of Place’, originally scheduled to take place in August 2020 and now postponed to 2022.
However, despite the recent hurdles, the fundraising campaign (owned by the Friends of Lancing Chapel and supported by the Lancing College Foundation Office) needed to raise £1.2m. All but £50,000 has now been raised and completion of the project is still very much within reach to enable the West End Porch to be finished as planned in 2021. The funds have been raised through gifts specific to the project and donations are largely from OLs, legacies and grants from various Trusts.
To contribute towards the completion of this magnificent Sussex landmark, and be part of the Chapel’s history, please visit https://www.lancingcollege.co.uk/visit-chapel/lancing-chapel-completion-campaign/support-us-be-part-chapels-history
Of all the things which have conspired to keep Lancing Chapel unfinished for over 150 years, perhaps a global pandemic was the least expected. The coincidence of the lockdown happening in the very week that the last phase of building was due to start on site was, at first, frustrating and disappointing. All is well, however, and what has evolved provides a model for the long-term sustainability of the Chapel. With the enthusiastic ingenuity of the masonry contractors and the sensitive cooperation of the College and the Friends, work is now progressing on schedule towards completion this year. Fundraising activities were also suspended, but miraculously money has continued to come in. We are within £50,000 of our appeal target. Funds for conservation will always be needed but the porch will be finished. The Chapel is a symbol of survival, healing and indomitable hope for the future.
Jeremy Tomlinson, Steward of Lancing Chapel