The Chapel is in fact older than the Inn itself.
A document of 1314/15 records the assumption by the Prior and Convent of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield of responsibility for the provision of a priest to serve the chapel of the manor of Portpoole, the property of John de Grey (of the Greys of Wilton), which later became the premises of Gray’s Inn.
Our present Chapel is on the same site (except for the chancel, a post-war addition) as the chapel mentioned in 1315.
In 1539 Pension ordered that in consideration of the wishes of the King (Henry VIII) the image of Thomas à Becket should be removed from one of the windows. In the 1690s the building was found to be ruinous, and re-constructed. In 1893 the building was restored in a late Gothic style but was destroyed by enemy action in 1941.
From 1941 to 1960 a room in the Common Room building was used for Divine Service. The present chapel was built in the years following the Second World War to the designs of the late Master Sir Edward Maufe, the architect of Guildford Cathedral. It was larger than before, and the original stained glass windows, which had been removed for safety, were replaced.
The east window, installed in the years 1893-1899, commemorates four archbishops who were either members or preachers of Gray’s Inn: Whitgift, Juxon, Wake and Laud. The centre panel depicts Thomas à Becket.
The present Chapel also contains by its north door the incomplete remains of a mediaeval holy water stoup.
The windows on the south wall (one of which can be seen to the left of the header image above) date from the late 15th century (although they are commonly but wrongly referred to as “Tudor mullions”). They were walled up during building alterations in the 1840s and re-discovered during the restoration of 1893.
The document of 1314/15 referred to above pinpoints the beginning of the post of the Chaplain, later known as the Chapel Reader. In 1574 the Inn also appointed a Preacher, in recognition, no doubt, of the increased importance ascribed by the reformed church to preaching: the other three Inns also appointed Preachers at around the same time.
With some surprising subdivisions of the duties of the Chaplain – which included most things to do with the Chapel except for the preaching of a single weekly sermon during termtime – the two-tier staff structure continued up to 1919, when the preachership vacated by Fletcher was not filled; the chaplain, the Revd Dr Walter Matthews, was given the title of Preacher and the posts amalgamated, in 1928.