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News > Archives & History > The Brooke Chapel, A Bishops Gem

The Brooke Chapel, A Bishops Gem

Dr Paul Murray gives an account of how the Brooke Chapel came to be by looking at its architect Edward Baldwin John Knox. Taken from the Diocesan College Magazine, June 2016.

The Brooke Chapel named after the Reverend Canon Brooke, Bishops’s fifth Principal, is one of Bishops’s gems. It was constructed to the proportions of Edward Baldwin John Knox (1845 – 1903), who was trained in England as a mechanical and civil engineer under John Penn & Sons, Greenwich. It was only after he arrived in South Africa that Knox began practising as an architect. But before that, whilst living in England, he got a great deal of experience working on projects such as the Hartlepool and Tyne Docks extension. He became an Associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1875, the year before coming to Cape Town. The year after arriving in Cape Town he applied to become an Associate Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to which he was elected in 1877. This was a remarkable accomplishment as it made Knox the earliest Associate member of the RIBA to practise in Cape Town. By the time he left for Johannesburg in 1889 to become the Acting Town Engineer, he had executed several works in Cape Town, one is the mission church of St Paul in Bree Street.

It was built between 1878 and 1880 although some sources indicate that the upper portion of the church was completed in 1900 by architects Baker and Masey. The church of St Paul has been described as ‘a very rare Cape example of Victorian polychromy’ and one of the very few examples of High Victorian architecture in the city. Before working on St Paul’s, however, Knox designed the Brooke Chapel at Bishops for which the foundation stone was laid in November 1879.

There was no ceremony for this because at the time the French teacher M de la Cornillère had just died. The first formal service was on 26 January 1881. The West Porch of the Chapel designed by Herbert Baker was added in 1896, as a memorial to Bishops’s Archdeacons Henry Master White and John Hopkins Badnall. When the War Memorial Chapel was built in 1927 the Brooke Chapel became a library after which in 1985 it was re-dedicated as a chapel, for which it is still used today. Recently it was reported by the College Chaplain the Reverend Terry Wilke that water was pouring into the vestry of the Brooke Chapel. Preliminary excavations down to the building’s original foundations revealed that the containing wall erected around the church, from the south side, was damming up the water. For this reason, it was decided to remove the wall only for the most beautiful stonework to be exposed, which can be viewed from the Founders House side, to see how it blends with the Founders stone façade and the Old Gym.


Dr Paul Murray. 

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