1207/3/20 WEST HILL SW18
19-MAR-81 WHITELANDS COLLEGE CHAPEL
Chapel, 1928-30, by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Formerly serving the adjacent Whitelands College which was converted to residential apartments in 2005.
Red brick with spare stone dressings and tiled roofs; Byzantine style; cruciform plan. Stained glass windows were removed in 2005 and re-sited in College's new building, Parkstead House (formerly Manresa House) LB Wandsworth.
EXTERIOR: The external appearance of the chapel is austere, with few window openings and no buttresses, and its principal quality is the careful use of brick to articulate the elevations. There is, for example, a channelled section in the brick along the base of the north, west and south sides, evocative of a rusticated plinth. Each transept, and the east end, has a triplet of round-headed lights beneath a lunette set in a round-headed stone surround and an arch of gauged bricks. A course of vertical bricks, which runs across the north, south and east elevations, meets the transept and east end windows at the impost of each lunette arch. The nave has three round-headed windows to each elevation. The west end has a brick porch with prominent stone dressings, two stone urns and a classical stone doorway surround. A pentice connects the chapel entrance with the former Whitelands College building. There is a circular staircase turret to the north-west and a single storey vestry extending from the south transept.
The low square crossing tower is in two stages, the second having a row of five wide rectangular lights above two courses of vertical brickwork and stone dressings. Further courses of vertical bricks give the impression of a moulded cornice beneath the tower's low pyramidal roof. The tower profile mirrors that of the College building to the south, to which it is axially aligned.
INTERIOR: The most striking feature of the interior is the vast crossing, its size enhanced by the tall, unadorned, rounded arches and blind clerestory with ten round-headed lights to each side. Above this are five rectangular windows which admit daylight. The crossing has a square coffered timber ceiling, the nave a simple king post roof; both are painted in bright colours.
There is wood panelling, about six feet high, in the nave and transepts. This contains a simple classical repeated motif of paired pilasters and a pediment. There are wooden benches, facing inwards in the collegiate style, in the transepts (two rows) and along both walls of the nave (single row). Of particular historic interest is the very plain memorial to Winifred Mercier in the south transept panelling: a simple wooden plaque. Fifteen William Morris and Company windows have been removed and the remaining windows are either clear or simple coloured glass.
At the west end is a gallery supported by wooden columns with capitals carved with angels and acanthus leaves and attractive carving along the entablature. The gallery contains the wooden skeleton of the organ, the pipes having been removed. Beneath the gallery are two stalls, each with a back-screen of four arched bays, dividing the chapel from the ante chapel. The two principal's stalls have pedimented canopies on pairs of colonnettes with angel capitals. This ensemble, in its high-quality craftsmanship and design which is consistent with the chapel's architecture, is an important component of the interior.
HISTORY: The former Whitelands College buildings, including the chapel, were built by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1928-30 to accommodate the teacher training college, then under the headship of educationalist Winifred Mercier. The College was formerly based on King's Road, Chelsea. Scott incorporated stained glass and a reredos by William Morris and Company from the old college chapel at Chelsea in the design of the new building, which involved modifying the pointed arch glass to a round arch. In 2005 the stained glass and reredos were removed and re-sited in Parkstead House (formerly Manresa House), the new home of Whitelands College.
Whitelands College was a significant institution in the development of education in the C19 and early C20 and the college buildings and chapel represent an important part of the college's history. When Winifred Mercier became principal of Whitelands in 1918, the college was the oldest and most prestigious Anglican teacher training college and had just begun to admit nonconformist students. Under Mercier it expanded and was at the vanguard of developments in educational policy. Mercier was heavily involved in the commissioning and design of the new buildings at Putney, on land donated by the Church of England, even personally selecting the fireplace tiles for student's bedrooms. As is fitting to Mercier's progressiveness professionally, and Giles Gilbert Scott's architectural oeuvre, the college and chapel are consciously modern, shunning the legacy of Victorian institutional buildings. As might be expected given Mercier's disapproval of denominational colleges, the design of the chapel is austere and owes little to the architectural traditions of any particular Christian denomination. Instead, it evokes the early Christian basilicas of the Roman period, particularly in the low tower, paucity of windows and use of brick.
The buildings were opened by Queen Mary in June 1931. The royal connection is evidence for the increased status of teacher training institutions, a development in which Winifred Mercier and Whitelands College played no small part.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: The chapel to the former Whitelands College is a carefully-designed building, restrained and austere yet richly imaginative. The exterior brickwork is of a high quality and the use of vertical courses and channelled lower walls to adorn the elevations is a device often employed by Giles Gilbert Scott. The interior is also significant, despite the removal of William Morris and Company stained glass and reredos, and its principal quality is the vast space at the crossing, emphasised by the simplicity of the unadorned round arches and clerestory lights. Furthermore, the building is of historic interest as part of a prestigious teacher training college headed by the influential educationalist Winifred Mercier who personally oversaw the design of the building. The chapel also has group value with the adjacent college buildings which are listed Grade II.