The Roedean Chapel is a treasured sanctuary, endowed through generations with beautiful gifts offered in memory or in gratitude and affection.
The first building, The Nancy Carver Memorial Chapel, designed by Mr Leonard Fleming, and built in memory of a pa st pupil, was initially half the size it is today. As there was enough money only for the little building itself, it was very small, with a beaten-earth floor, slits for windows, no seats, and no lighting, but before the building was finished, an anonymous donor gave enough money to glaze the windows and provide seating and lighting. This was the first special gift of many for the beautifying and enriching of the Chapel.
In an article on the occasion of the dedication in 1934, The Star said: “It is perhaps the most beautiful memorial to one person that Johannesburg possesses.” Stained-glass windows
have filled the ‘slits.’
At the altar, the original reredos, designed and executed by Helena Janisch, with the words in Greek, “Feed my Sheep”, has been replaced with
“I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” in wrought iron and copper lettering by Kurt Jobst.
As the school outgrew the original building, Mr Fleming was asked to draw up the plans for an extension to be carried out at an estimated cost of £5,000.
Ella le Maitre, Headmistress from 1934 to 1958, laid the Foundation Stone of this building in 1957. The Chapel was a place that was particularly close to her heart. Her deep religious faith was known to all, and, having been present at the dedication of the first Chapel, she gained particular joy from the enlargement.
To mark Ella’s tenth anniversary at the school, the Old Girls donated the Lych Gate, which was built in memory of her parents. The inscription on the gate, chosen by Ella, reads:
“I was glad when they said unto me
‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’”.
What a pity, that, yet again, the need for security obscures this charming entrance to a very special
place. Not only is this garden a place of tranquility, but it is also of particular significance, as many of the trees were planted by staff and girls on the school’s own Arbour Day in 1934. Years of tender
loving care have added to its beauty.