Repton School’s legacy spans over 450 years, starting with a bequest by Sir John Port of Etwall in 1557. And while the School has an outstanding history of educational, athletic, and community impact, the grounds themselves tell a story of their own.
The property left for the founding of Repton School, still used as the main campus to this day, was no ordinary land or collection of buildings. The School takes its name from the Derbyshire village of the same name where parish churches have been erected as symbols of faith for worshippers as far back as the 7th century. Repton School remains centred on what is now known as the Repton Chapel and renowned for both its splendour and spirit.
Repton Faith Withstands the Tests of Time
In the Anglo-Saxon capital of Mercia, what is now known as Repton, villagers first heard the news of Christianity preached in the Midlands. The year was 653, and as the good word was spread, buildings to accommodate the faithful soon followed. An abbey arose on the floodplain that included a crypt to house the remains of the royal family and church as a centre of worship and pilgrim gatherings.
The region and the monastery endured Viking raids, William the Conqueror, and leagues of British monarchial kings. The 12th century Augustinian priory’s buildings continued to serve the spiritual needs of the community until Henry VIII ended the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church during his Reformation. Parts of the Chapel survived along with several nearby abbey buildings while changing hands in private ownership several times. Finally, the property found itself in the possession of Sir John Port, who requested in his will that it be used as a school.
The Chapel Joins Repton School
The headmasters of Repton School have provided opportunities for students to practise their faith in difference venues over the years. Initially, with just a handful of students, the school made use of nearby St. Wystan’s church during regular services. As the number of pupils grew, they were separated into different services for Upper School and Lower School students.
The Repton School campus was built up to accommodate the growing number of students in the 1850s while making use of many of the existing estate buildings from the 1500s or earlier. Included in this were the Guest Chamber and Prior’s Lodging. Headmaster Pears helped raise awareness that a dedicated place of worship was needed to support spiritual revival, a cause backed with fervour during the School’s tercentenary celebrations.
In 1858, the Chapel’s foundation stone was set in place, and the building has remained a refuge for reflection and faith ever since. Dr. Pears also ensured that the Chapel became a place of musical worship by founding the first Chapel choir. The boys were lead in four-part harmony through the singing of hymn in the absence of an organ, which was not rectified until 1880. Later improvements included the addition of memorial stained glass windows, an extension to the nave, and gas lighting. All efforts were carefully selected to make the Chapel a more inviting venue for religious practise.
Repton School and Chapel Grow Together
The 19th century began with a staff replete with ordained teachers and students largely eager to dedicate their lives to Christian causes. Many went on to become missionaries and support community outreach efforts in city missions. Repton School’s houses began and ended each day in prayer.
Headmasters also took their turns adding ornamentation to the previously simple-yet-elegant Chapel style. Notably, the Chapel organ screen and Ante-Chapel were dedicated to the memory of 131 Repton School alumni who gave their lives in service during the Boer War. Other additions included several extensions, porches, and transepts, with the last major architectural changes completed by 1929.
While the Chapel’s footprint as remained the same for over 80 years, upgrades to the interior design have added to its original splendour. Stonework has been cleaned and restored while new choir stalls and lighting have been incorporated with the existing aesthetic. The result is a welcoming space that evokes awe and encourages congregants to experience moments of peace and reflection.
Repton Chapel Remains at the Core of the Modern School
With a firm foundation in faith, it is not surprising that Repton Chapel has been at the heart of the School for over 160 years. Students, staff, family, and alumni are avail themselves of the Chapel and its many services today. The entire student body gathers in the Chapel each Friday for a short prayer service. Regular choral services and celebrations of the Eucharist are held for those looking for formal ways to express their faith or prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Worship and faith remain inclusive regardless of an individual’s denomination. The entire Repton School community can use the Chapel’s stillness to reflect and explore their own beliefs and discover a spiritual path that resonates with them. After centuries of playing host to ranging religious beliefs, cultures, rulers, and communities, Repton remains a beacon of faith in the Midlands for all who visit.
About Repton School
Repton School is a co-educational independent school for boarding and day pupils aged between 13-18. Faith and spirituality are just one of many hallmark elements of an environment designed to inspire creativity and development for students. Repton Chapel remains a regular part of student expressions of faith as well as holiday celebrations, performances, and memorials. Learn more about Repton School’s Chapel: https://www.repton.org.uk/school-life/chapel