Next Sunday afternoon, June 26th, Cardinal Griffin will be going down to Strawberry Hill to dedicate to Our Lady a little shrine that was built by Horace Walpole and is known to readers of his letters as the Chapel-in-the-Wood. Built between the years 1761 and 1771, "of brick, with a beautiful front of Portland stone," says Walpole in his Description of Strawberry Hill, it was "executed by Mr. Gayfere o Westminster, and taken from the tomb of Edmund Audley, Bishop of Salisbury, in that cathedral." It was never intended to be used as a chapel, and Horace Walpole kept in it a varied collection of his treasures. The main feature was a large shrine in mosaic brought from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, in Rome ; according to the Description, this had been erected in 1256 over the tombs of the martyrs Simplicius, Faustina and Beatrix, by Giovanni Capoccio and his wife Vinia, and was the work of Pietro Cavalini, who had made the tomb of St. Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey. There was also a very old and beautiful stained glass window brought from a church at Bexhill and now restored to its proper place ; Horace Walpole wrongly described this as showing "portraits of Henry III and his Queen." There were also four panels from an altar-piece that had belonged to the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, a Donatello head of St. John the Baptist, in white marble, and an oaken Gothic Madonna. All these things, and so much else besides that had been amassed in this little corner of the Kingdom of Serendip, were sold at the famous auction in 1842.
In 1950, to mark the centenary of St. Mary's College and also the silver jubilee of its removal from Hammersmith to Horace Walpole's house at Strawberry Hill, the past students decided to restore Walpole's chapel and to erect in it a shrine of Our Lady, and the work has been in progress ever since. Chute's vaulted ceiling has been restored, a statue of Our Lady has been specially carved in Italy and some fine stained glass has been made in Ireland. We do not know what Horace Walpole would have said.