This site is dedicated to Sir Walter Tapper, and the fabulous architecture that he left us.


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David Dolan and Leigh O'Brien

A Unique Building

The magnificent Chapel of SS. Mary and George at Guildford Grammar School is of exceptional and unique heritage value as the only building in Australia by the eminent English architect Sir Walter Tapper (1861-1935). It has been central to the religious and educational life of Guildford Grammar School since it was constructed just before World War One. The belief that a fine chapel was the highest priority in a Church of England School inspired Headmaster Percy Umfreville Henn to pursue funding before he left England to take up his new position at the school in Western Australia. His determination paid off early when a generous English donor, Cecil Oliverson, offered to provide the entire £5000 to build the Chapel. That this donation massively increased to over £40 000, to include the building, internal fittings and many of its furnishings, to produce a truly exceptional school chapel, despite the reluctance and lack of support from the Perth diocese, was an incredible achievement.1

Sir Walter Tapper was the English architect who designed the Gothic Revival Guildford Grammar Chapel, but, like the donor, never actually saw the building. His role in the Chapel’s story has been briefly explored before2, but no new account of his life and work has been published since the year of his death. This paper considers his career and role more closely to contextualise the chapel both locally and internationally. We need to understand the man himself, what motivated him, and where the Guildford Grammar Chapel is situated within a wider context than has previously been explored.

1 For a detailed description of the Chapel see: R G Aikman and J H M Honniball, The Chapel of SS. Mary and George, Guildford Grammar School: A History (Guildford: The Council of Guildford Church of England Grammar School Inc., 1962). For a discussion of the Chapel within the context of the Guildford Grammar School’s history see: M White, Go Forward: Guildford Grammar School 1896 - 1996 (Guildford: Guildford Grammar School, 1996).
2 Aikman and Honniball, The Chapel of SS. Mary and George, particularly pp. 15-18.

Sir Walter Tapper ~ Sir Walter J. Tapper ~ Gothic Revivalist Architect ~ St Erkenwald, Southend-on-Sea ~ Church of the Annunciation, Bryanston Street ~ Church of the Ascension, Malvern Link ~ Guildford Grammar School Chapel