Did you know that when the iconic University Chapel first opened its doors in 1959, its front face was naked of adornment? Just the rawly reconstructed limestone blocks and the huge double doors.
A photograph which Emeritus Prof of Chemistry Robert Lancashire gathered from the son of then Chemistry Department head Leonard Haynes, shows the raw face. It was taken during a regular visit to the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) founding campus at Mona, by Chancellor Princess Alice, Duchess of Athlone – that’s her on the left of the picture. The Chapel was her special project.
The plan was to have a portico that would help to meld the design of the massive cutstone, sugar plantation structure from the 18th century with the new, modernist campus buildings being constructed to designs by English architectural firm Norman & Dawbarn. But that would come in March 1962, two years after the Chapel was dedicated on February 14, 1960, and three years after the first service was held there on June 21, 1959 – as recorded in the first Duty Book, now in the University Archives.
March 2017 marks 55 years since the face of the Chapel received it’s distinctive portico.
Oh, and by the way: Many know the story of how the building that became the Chapel was relocated from its original location on Jamaica’s north coast, block by block, and subsequently reconstructed on the Mona Great Lawn. And how Jamaican sculptor Alvin Marriott was one of the persons who worked on the decorative elements inside the Chapel. We would love to find any photos of that process, that pre-dated the dedication, or even of those early services. So if you have, or know who might, please let us know.