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Edward Alleyn and Christ’s Chapel

March 13, 2016

As 2016 marks the 400-year anniversary of Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift in Dulwich Village, this year’s festival will be celebrating the establishment of the Chapel by Elizabethan actor Edward Alleyn in 1616, exploring the history of the building and what inspired Alleyn to act. There will also be opportunities to learn more about the age in which Alleyn was living, and the cultural and political climate of the time.


The Chapel, located in the heart of Dulwich Village, was the first of Alleyn’s Foundation buildings to be completed, being consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 1 September 1616. Comprising chapel, school and alms houses, they were built by Alleyn as an act of thanksgiving to God for his talents as an actor and his ability in business. The Chapel has been used continually since then as a place of worship and played a fundamental role in establishing the Dulwich we know and love today.


 On Friday 6th May Professor Grace Ioppolo FSA of the University of Reading, will join Mrs Calista Lucy, Keeper of the Archive, Dulwich College, to discuss ‘Shakespeare, Edward Alleyn and the world of early modern theatre’. They will consider what we know of Edward Alleyn, the highly successful actor-entrepreneur who co-owned at least two theatres and who was lauded as one of the greatest actors of his time. Professor Ioppolo is Director and Founder of The Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project which has made the single largest manuscript collectionheld in the Archive at Dulwich College, on early modern English theatre production and performance available as an electronic archive and website to all.

 ‘A history of Christ’s Chapel in 10 objects’ will do exactly what it says on the tin. Or in this case, the books, manuscripts and other artefacts which tell the Chapel’s story throughout history. Robert Weaver FSA, Keeper of the Fellows’ Library, will expertly guide us through the objects which illustrate major periods of change in politics, belief and society. These iconic materials reference touchpoints as diverse as the English Reformation and the Civil War era and are brought to life with some colourful personalities of the times. This highly entertaining and informative lecture takes place at 6pm and 7pm on Thursday 12th May in the Old Library, Dulwich College.

Local historian, Brian Green, will share his considerable knowledge in his talk on ‘The Surprising Story of Christ’s Chapel’ on Tuesday 10th May at 7.30pm. Brian will tell us how the Chapel, built only 11 years after the Gunpowder Plot was a place of religious fanaticism and change during the first century of its 400 years.

Alleyn founded Christ’s Chapel with a vision and determination to help shape and change lives but he was a radical of his time and not everyone in authority concurred with his view. The ‘Contemporary Radicals: in the footsteps of Edward Alleyn’ talk will be looking at representatives from our time and society who have sought to buck the trend and act to change things for the better. Joining us at the event will be founder of the Magic Breakfast, Carmel MacConnell MBE, Chair of the Black Cultural Archives, Dawn Hill, the founder of Brass for Africa, Jim Trott and Trustee of Link Age Southwark, Neville De Souza. 

Giving us an insight into the musical backdrop of Alleyn’s era, London ensemble Joglaresa will be showcasing their virtuoso minstrelsy with music from the Middle Ages to the 17th century. Their ‘Nuns and Roses’ performance will see dance tunes, lullabies and ballads performed with voices, medieval fidel, harp, bagpipes, and percussion. They join us at Christ’s Chapel at 7.30pm on Wednesday 11th May.

Also for the musically-minded, on Saturday 7th May there will be an open afternoon for those interested in seeing and learning more about the Chapel’s organ and on the following evening (Sunday 8th May) an organ recital will take place, starting at 7.45pm.

Tickets for all events are available –