The Story of St. PETER’S CHAPEL
The Beginnings,

For the first forty years of the School's history there was no building set apart especially as a place    of    worship.    School    prayers    and    services were held on week-days in the Dining Hall or in the Big Hall, and on Sundays, at any rate during the Wardenship of Dr. Pope and during the years when Canon Foley was in the charge of All Saints' Church (i.e. up to 1911)—the boarders used to go to this church.

So far as week-day services concerned, the state of things continued, with short intervals when there was no regular worship, until the year 1907 when the Brotherhood took over the School. When the Rev. H. Pakenham-Walsh arrived at Cottons as Warden and Head of the Brotherhood he realized almost immediately that the first and foremost need    of    the    School    was    recognized    and a permanent place of worship. He had two alternatives before him:

(a)      If money, a suitable site and enough time were given him, he would put up a new building.

(b)      If not, he would adapt an existing building as worthy as possible.When the Brotherhood came into residence, the School was in very low water, both financially and numerically. So, for this reason and because the need was an urgent one, the second alternative was the only practicable one.

The First Chapel

In those days-round      about      the      year      1907—what      are      now      the      Warden's Study and the School office were one room, a dormitory, named after the third Principal of the School, the Rev. E. H, Dubois. (The nameplate is still on the wall). The numbers of boarders had dropped sadly to ten only, so this room was no longer required for a dormitory. It faced east and was centrally placed. So, the first thing that the Rev. Pakenham—Walsh did was to convert this room into a Chapel. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Madras (the late Right Reverend Henry Whitehead) on St. Peter's Day, 1907, From then on daily services were held in the Chapel, the boarders continued to go to the All Saints' Church for the Sunday morning service. In 1911 this was discontinued when the Sunday morning service was held in Chapel and a celebration of Holy Communion on alternate Sundays.

From this time, too, dates the appointment of Chapel Prefects (originally called 'Monitors').

The Second Chapel

In the year 1911 the Girl's School moved across to its present site which had been acquired the previous year.

The boys' School took over the buildings and grounds of the Girls’ School.

As a result of this development, the old Girls School Hall was converted into a new Chapel for both Schools in 1911. It provided more accommodation and was situated in a quiet corner of the grounds.  A cross was placed on the roof over the main door. Some of the rooms alongside the Chapel continued to be used as classrooms for some time, one became the Vestry. All the furniture from the old Chapel was brought across and placed in the new Chapel. The new Chapel was dedicated on St. Peter's Day.

Numbers    in    the    School    rose    steadily    over    the    years, and    there    was    a need for a larger chapel.

The end of the first World War supplied the necessary motive for enlargement, a memorial to the Boys and Masters who gave their lives in the War—A beginning was made in 1920.

The Third Chapel

The plan was to convert the shape of the chapel from that of a rectangle into that of a cross. The whole of the existing chapel becomes the lower part of the cross to form the Nave. The center of the cross to be the Chancel, the left arm to be the Lady Chapel, the right the Vestry and the headpiece to be the Sanctuary. The roof was to be raised.

The Science Laboratory had been housed in the rooms at the side of the Chapel. This was now moved to St. Peter’s Building, where it has remained ever since —The old laboratory and verandah were removed altogether.

In six months, the work was done under the energetic determination of the Warden, the Rev. F. V. Dawkins, On St. Peter's Day, 1921 the chapel was re-dedicated by Bishop Pakenham Walsh. There is a brass tablet in the Lady Chapel to commemorate this.

The Chapel has received many gifts from its very beginning. The Rev. J. C. Wimbush, whose little booklet upon the history of the Chapel has been the main source for this brief account, preserves a list of the gifts, so many linking the Chapel permanently with Old Boys, parents, Staff or Governors.

From   1931   until   1955   the   beautification   of   the   Chapel   was   due   to   the work of the late Canon W. Elphick. His ideal for the Chapel could be summed up in the two words with which it was once described to him by a friend whom he was showing round the School - "simply beautiful". Simplicity combined with beauty-this was his aim and aim he most successfully achieved, and through his own love of the Chapel encouraged others to share in its improvement.

In April 1959 the Rev. J. C Wimbush who so warmly shared Canon Elphick's love of the Chapel died in England and left the School a generous legacy. To commemorate his years of service in the School (1930-40) as a member of the Brotherhood a new vestry was added to the Chapel for the safekeeping of vestments, making the existing vestry more spacious as a Choir vestry, a complete new set of hymn books was provided and also a movable Altar, a small replica of the High Altar, for use with the C.S I. Liturgy. The vestry and the Holy Table were dedicated by the Rt. Rev. N. C. Sargant Bishop in Mysore on St. Peter's Day 1961.

In two years' time we shall celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Chapel and how better than by continuing to seek to make it ever "simply beautiful". In this never-ending quest to make the Chapel ever worthier of Him to whose glory it stands, we could not do better than to provide it with new and beautiful windows.

The Chapel and its Music

The singing in the first Chapel was led by a harmonium which had been obtained in 1908. It was carried across into the second Chapel and kept as a reserves instrument, for in 1921 a small pipe organ was purchased from St. John's Church, Tiruchirapalle though even then an old instrument, it served for nearly ten years by which time it had become so uncertain that the organist could never be sure that it could last through a service. It is recorded that it was sometimes necessary to “desert it in the middle of a hymn for the small and wheezy harmonium which was kept for safety’s sake at its side and the playing of which resembled nothing so much as a man in training for a swift and strenuous bicycle race."

The organ was sold, a piano hired and used for the next ten years. In 1937 the old harmonium was sold. Already there were those who had begun to plan for a new organ. In 1936 it was decided that the new organ should be a memorial to Mr. A. G. Haynes' Twenty-five years of faithful service to the School.

On Saturday the 16th March 1940 the first strains were heard of the new Hammond Electronic organ. It was dedicated on April 21st, 1940 by Bishop Pakenham Walsh, who had been Warden when Mr. Haynes had joined the staff.

In the late 1950s the organ began to fail in part through the vagaries of power supply, in part through age. Since 1960 we have used a piano once again whilst attempts have been made to revive the organ. The makers advise us that it would be unwise to spend money upon it for it is now out of date.

Once more the Chapel needs a new organ. Can we hope to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the Chapel in 1967 with singing led by a new organ?

What was only a hope in 1965-the Centenary year of the School - became a stark reality on St. Peter's Day 1987 the 60th Anniversary of the Old Cottonians Association. Yes indeed, not only did the Chapel have a new Electronic Organ but also the Chapel itself was completely refurbished at substantial cost. One can describe the present Chapel in Keatsian terms- "a thing of beauty is a joy forever,"-but we would prefer to describe it as the Late Canon Elphick wanted it to be- “Simply beautiful”.

All this was made possible because of the magnanimity and devotion of the Old Cottonians to their beloved Cottons and also those friends of the School who wish to see it grow from strength to strength at the same time preserving its glorious traditions.
Excerpts from the Old Cottonian
60th Anniversary, 1987