Thomas Cubitt, Samuel Ware & Highgate School Chapel rebuild that never was

Highgate School Chapel

Highgate School Chapel was a curious mix between a chapel of rest and a church. The school website states “1819 – Our School is enlarged with aid from the National Society, a Church of England fund for religious education.” It is just about possible that Thomas Cubitt had a hand in this work.

[We are investigating the Lambeth Palace archives to see if there is any evidence of the aid from the National Society]

Samuel Ware

Thomas Ware who was a well known architect [collection of drawings in The Royal Academy]who had designed Burlington Arcade and the remodelled Burlington House in Piccadilly was appointed by the governors to specify repairs and alterations to the Chapel of Highgate School. This resulted in a specification of works, which has survived in the school archives.

Tender returns for the sum of £4,497 [pg 28], with priced variation rates [pg 29] appear to be have been recieved.

Thomas Cubitt and Samuel War work together
Highgate School Chapel specification of works by Samuel Ware, dated 1818. By kind permission of Highgate Schools.

Interestingly Ware is described in the cover and title page as ‘Surveyor’ rather than architect.

Ware also wrote ‘A treatise of the properties arches, and their abutment piers‘ Samuel Ware, J Taylor, London 1809. He also wrote a treatise on fire proofing theatres. This may be coincidental but Thomas Cubitt was well known for his works on fire proofing buildings using brick arched floors etc.

Ware trained under Henry Carr at 2 Albemarle Street [British History Online gives the reference as B[uilder?], 15 June 1867, p.427; 3 March 1877, p.217].

Ware appears to have lived at 5 John Street, Adelphi between 1814 – 29 according to the records of the Sun Fire Office. However, his address is identified in A treatise of the properties arches, and their abutment piers [preface pg ix] as 15 John Street Adelphi.

Ware, himself became a bit of a developer, from 1823, with The Ware Estate in Chelsea.

Thomas Cubitt and Samuel Ware

According to Hermione Hobhouse [pg 25], Sir John Summeron’s notes [Hobhouse’s endnote 11] contain a reference to Cubitt’s work on The Highgate School Chapel¹.

It should be noted that a text [Some Account of the free Grammar School of Highgate, John Green, London, 1822] contains no mention of the chapel works of 1818 /19. So the possibility must be considered that the chapel works were never carried out.

According to the school archives², Ware’s chapel scheme was never actually implemented, one it became clear that there was no ability to claim for funds on the church building program as it was a private chapel.

This lead to a separate Act of Parliament and the creation of St Michael’s Highgate which was certianly build by Willian & Lewis Cubitt.

So, it would appear that the story of Thomas Cubitt reworking the school chapel in 1818/19 is entirely erroneous.

This records held by Lambeth Palace Library relating to the chapel and school


¹….There is a reference dated January 1831 ‘perusing and settling contract with Mr Vulliamy, Highgate Chapel’. However, that does not shed light on why the works to 1818/19 works to Highgate Chapel are attached to Cubbit on page 25. It has to remain a possibility that this is a misatribbution.

² Personal communication from Highgate School archivist 11/06/2024, “We know that the works did not go ahead to the Chapel.  It was superseded by the court case which eventually led to the Chapel being demolished.  St Michael’s was then created for the village in 1931-32 and in 1967 a new School Chapel was built.  The only work that took place during this period was in relation to the school building.”