Brighton Centre Chapel
One of our most precious objects - the Chapel - opened its doors in 1938 next to, and as part of, our training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton.
The Chapel plays an important role in our history for two reasons; it caters for the religious needs of our veterans and it has witnessed over the last 100 years, some of our most important celebrations.
The chapel at Ovingdean, like the rest of the building, was designed by architect Francis Lorne. Originally from Scotland, Lorne spent much of his early career in the United States. He moved to Canada during the First World War, and served with the Canadian Engineers. After returning to the UK he became a partner in the Burnet, Tait and Lorne practice in the early 1930s. An outgoing personality, he was apparently renowned for receiving clients wearing a silk shirt without a jacket, which was unheard of at the time! Lorne was present when the chapel was dedicated on 25th October 1938
Above the chapel is a large and striking sculpture, 'Winged Victory' by Julian Phelps Allan. Originally Eva Dorothy Allan, she changed her name in 1929. Allan had served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps during the First World War, and went on to do so in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II, and she herself later lost her sight.
The Chapel has since been used primarily for wedding services, blessings and funerals but other events have also been held there.
The first wedding to take place in the chapel was on 10th February 1951, between John Simpson and Esther Ellison. John, who died in 1982, was one of Blind Veterans UK's most active veterans, especially in sporting events. His achievements included competing in the International Games for the Blind in Austria in 1973. John also provides a connection to us today through his daughter Paula, who is a constant supporter of Blind Veterans UK. Paula also married in the chapel, as did her sister Julia, and John's funeral also took place there.
Following the charity's change of name from St Dunstan's to Blind Veterans UK in 2012 the chapel was formally named the St Dunstan's Chapel to acknowledge our long association with the St Dunstan's name and preserve a current connection with it.
An 'early record' was kept for each veteran to ensure that they received the best possible support, rehabilitation and training.
This was the first income our charity received and represented the opening of our support to veterans who had lost their sight in the First World War.
Did you know that the talking book was first dreamed up by blind veteran Captain Ian Fraser while listening to a gramophone at St Dunstan's (now known as Blind Veterans UK) early rehabilitation centre?