The majority of the carvings in the chapel were executed by Frederick Gurnsey (1863-1953). Later carvings were done in conjunction with Jake Vivian, who was Gurnsey’s only articled apprentice and who joined him in 1926, or by Vivian alone. (Gurnsey, Left and Vivian, Right)
Frederick Gurnsey had a studio at 180 Fendalton Road and was a most influential and gifted carver and sculptor. Many of his works can be found in ecclesiastical and public buildings and monuments. These include the Christchurch Anglican Cathedral and the Bridge of Remembrance.
All the carved work in the chapel is in oak. The altar, reredos and riddel posts with angels were carved in 1930-31. The Bishops chair was probably executed shortly after this. A gilded figure of the Risen Christ stands under the canopy with St Mary BV and St John the Evangelist with chalice and host standing in niches either side.
The reredos show Christ in bas relief healing the sick and the Samaritan helping the wounded man of his donkey. This panel has a symbolic link with an icon of Gallipoli – “The Man With the Donkey” painted by Horace Moore-Jones. The reredos outer frame is decorated with entwined thistle, rose and shamrock with a grape vine above.
The alter, now free standing, shows a carving of the pelican “in its piety” on the centre panel. If feeds its young in the nest with blood from its breast, symbolic of Christ’s self sacrifice and by extension a reference to nursing. The altar rails were designed and made by Vivian in May 1956. Vivian also was responsible for the hymn-book cupboard and prayer desk in October 1952. The rails show British and New Zealand flowers and the cupboard has a traditional linen-fold ornament and Gothic tracery work. Joinery work on these items was by Bert Sherwood.
The riddel posts were originally connected in pairs by curtains and were situated at the ends of the altar when it was joined to the reredos. George Rich and Sons were responsible for the joinery of the altar, rerdos and riddel posts.
The lectern was executed between 1946 and 1950 by Gurnsey and Vivian. It commemorates Dr Walter Fox MB, CM who was the Medical Superintendent and Honorary Surgeon from 1896-1899 and 1915-1936. He died in April 1945.
Cherubs decorate the base of the lectern and are typical of Gurnseys work. Emblems of the Four Evangelists can be seen beneath the bookrest.