CONSTRUCTION work has now started on the long-awaited extension to the Grade II* listed chapel at Radley College.

After solving the challenges of providing much-needed additional seating in TG Jackson’s Victorian masterpiece, the scheme designed by architects Purcell is now under way.

Major changes include the introduction of an octagonal extension to the East end.

The chapel is central to daily life at the private school - each evening pupils and staff gather to meet, worship and pray.

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While work on the chapel gets under way, the school is moving forward with plans to build 240 new homes.

Oxford Mail:

Josh Greig, Senior Architect at Purcell, said: “The chapel is the only place where the whole school congregates, making it the most intensively used space in the college.

"The 15-minute daily services are instrumental to student growth and development, allowing students to collectively sing, pray and reflect.

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“This ritual defines their future and the chapel is their spiritual home that they can return to throughout their lives.”

Radley College’s plans to increase its intake by 10 per cent in 2020/2021 is based on the premise that the whole college would be able to continue to congregate as one - and the architects said the school’s future growth would be ‘unthinkable’ without an expansion of the chapel.

Purcell said its extension will be a 'conscious continuation of Jackson’s work, whilst having its own distinctive character and presence'.

Oxford Mail:

It added: "The detailing, material selection, scale and proportion of the proposed additions have all been driven by the sense of design unity within the chapel.

"As such, whilst the alterations do seek to be a new architectural piece, they are clearly of the same family and belong to the chapel.

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"As part of the internal reordering, the Sanctuary extension will provide a new focal point for the chapel, enabling significantly more seating in the nave."

The college’s 16th century Flemish altarpiece will be re-positioned behind the altar in the Sanctuary, moving from its current position under the east window.

Purcell has also been working alongside an acoustics expert and organ specialist to improve the acoustics and incorporate a new organ into the chapel.

The organ will be repositioned from the North elevation back to its original position in the West Gallery.

Oxford Mail:

Architects said it was 'vital' that the design respected the integrity of the chapel form and the part it plays in the tradition of the daily service, which has been integral to college life for staff and students alike since the early 19th century.

Purcell won the closed design competition in 2016 and subsequently won planning permission for its design in June 2018.

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Working alongside Edgars planning consultants, Purcell won support from Historic England to make some radical changes to the chapel and has developed the proposals over the last year to allow work to start this summer.

The project is due to finish on site in December 2020.

At the same time the college has appointed Pye Homes, part of Blenheim Estate Homes, to build 240 new properties on its land.

The site will include 84 affordable homes, 21 of which will be shared ownership and the remaining 63 will form part of an affordable rent scheme. The remaining 156 will be available to buy on the open market.

Work is expected to get under way from April.