School old boy went above and beyond call of duty to honour ware heroes
Honiton museum curator Margaret Lewis
- Credit: Honiton Museum
When visitors first notice the ceiling in the Murch gallery they assume that it is ancient.
In fact, it dates from 1910 when a former Allhallows School pupil Arthur Lillies – better known as Arthur Chudleigh – converted the school dining hall back into a chapel in memory of former school pupils who died during the Boer War.
Arthur left Allhallows School Honiton in 1874 and he went to Epsom College – and then became a tea planter in Chittagong.
Returning to England he became a famous actor, the joint proprietor of the Court Theatre, lessee of the Comedy/ Garrick Theatre and generous patron of Allhallows School.
He paid for extensive alterations in the school dining hall to convert it into a chapel. The old roof was completely transformed and divided into panels, oak buttresses and a hammer beam adorned with the coat of arms for Oxford and Cambridge universities were installed. The walls were panelled in oak and a new oak organ loft was built with an outside staircase and door. Some of the seats were converted into choir stalls with carved benches. Mr Chudleigh also donated an organ, altar frontals, a lectern and brass altar rails.
The theme of the chapel decoration was ‘Te Dium’. Portraits of the twelve apostles, six Old Testament prophets and six Saints were painted on canvas to decorate the ceiling. The Bishop of Crediton, Dr Trefusis, re-opened and re-dedicated the School Chapel in May 1910.
Seventeen years later, Arthur and other members of his family gifted an altar front, an altar cross and two candlesticks to the chapel in memory of his brother Leonard Lillies who died in 1923 and his nephew Kenneth Chudleigh Lillies who was killed in October 1927 during a native uprising in the Solomon Islands.
When the school left Honiton in 1938 all the removable contents of the chapel including the memorial stained glass windows were taken to Rousdon.
The organ loft has gone but its door can still be seen high up inside the building.
Gradually over the years since Allhallows School at Rousdon closed in 1998 some important items from the chapel including the lectern, altar cross, candlesticks and the war memorial boards have been returned to its original home in Honiton.