Eton was founded as a religious institution and religion still plays a significant role in the college today. Neither College Chapel nor Lower Chapel is big enough to hold the whole school at any one time and therefore the College Chapel hosts the three older year groups and Lower Chapel the lowest two years. There are six chaplains on staff, and services are held four times a week in College Chapel, and six times a week in Lower Chapel. Roman Catholic services are also available and other faiths can attend other places of worship, of which many are represented locally.
The Lower Chapel was built between 1889 and 1891, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin and consecrated on 24 June 1891 by Dr William Stubbs, Bishop of Oxford. You can read a contemporary report about this event in the Eton Chronicle.
Like the Queen’s Schools, the neo-gothic chapel was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield and is late perpendicular in style. The design includes clear references to College Chapel: it does not include aisles, its exterior is divided by regular buttressing and the pinnacles are ornamented with crockets – the hook-shaped decorative element that derives from the French ‘croc’ meaning ‘hook’
Despite these similarities, the construction of Lower Chapel was very different, and Blomfield was keen to use relatively new building techniques for Lower Chapel. Although the building looks to be made of solid Bath Stone, it is built from steel and brick with an ashlar veneer.
Bath Stone is a type of limestone that was laid down during the Jurassic Period (195 to 135 million years ago) when the region that is now Bath was under a shallow sea. Its distinctive, honey colour makes it recognisable and it became so popular due to its qualities as a ‘freestone’, so named as it can be sawn or chiselled in any direction.
Continue walking down South Meadow Lane. Note the richly carved entrance to Lower Chapel on your left and the classically inspired entrance to the Music Schools on your right. The bottom of the fluted Doric pilasters are of particular interest. The soft brick has been worn away by the coins of countless boys since it was erected in 1903!
Once you have passed the Music Schools you’ll come to a sandy coloured brick building on your right – part of the Bekynton Field Development. This is the largest single building project carried out since Eton’s foundation and was opened by the Prince of Wales on 10 June 2015. It includes 40 new classrooms, a classically inspired 300 seat lecture theatre – the Jafar Hall – and a purpose-built museum for the college’s collection of antiquities. You may be able to catch a glimpse of this new academic quadrangle through the brick archway, so different in style from School Yard.