Calne - St Edmund

Oxford Road, Calne, Wiltshire, SN11

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A functional 1960s structure with a laminated timber frame, housing a good collection of modern liturgical furnishings and artworks by Seán Crampton, Geoffrey Robinson and others.

Calne was part of Chippenham parish until 1939. Mass was said in various private houses and in a hall at the back of Saint Mary’s church (Red Cross Hall) until 1947, when a large old property with spacious grounds in Oxford Road was acquired. The garage adjacent to the house was converted to use as a temporary church seating seventy, which opened in 1948 and was dedicated to St Ronan (architect: Hugh Bankart of Bath). The house itself became the presbytery for a resident priest.

Funds for a more permanent church were collected during the 1950s. With the growth of RAF Lyneham, the number of Catholics settling in Calne was steadily increasing. Calne was selected as the nearest church to supply the needs of the Catholics on that Station and the RAF made a contribution to the building fund for Saint Edmund’s. The new church was finally begun in 1962 and opened for worship in 1964. It was designed to seat 300.

The St Edmund of the dedication is St Edmund Rich, a thirteenth-century priest of Calne, who became Archbishop of Canterbury and was canonised by Pope Innocent IV. The font is said to have been made from stone from the ruins of the Cistercian house of Stanley Abbey; it was moved from the original baptistery behind the porch to the main body of the church in the 1980s, when the porch was enlarged and other reordering took place.

The church incorporates a number of sculptures by Seán Crampton (1918-99), who was a member of the congregation. It also incorporates glass panels by Geoffrey Robinson, brought here from the Catholic chapel at RAF Lyneham. A leaded Christus Rexpanel, also by Robinson, was reset within new oak entrance doors, installed in 2012 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone.

The church is not orientated; the liturgical east end faces south towards Oxford Road; the wall is battered inwards and was originally windowless; it now incorporates two rectangular lights, housing stained glass.  The building is in a modern functional style and is rectangular on plan with an aisleless nave and sanctuary under a continuous pitched roof. There is a large flat-roofed entrance porch on the east side, ‘…large so that perambulators can be accommodated’ (Catholic Building Review), which was further enlarged in the 1980s. Originally there was a separate baptistery behind the porch. The walls are faced with pale buff-coloured brick laid in stretcher bond, the pitched roof is covered in concrete tiles. The body of the church has simple rectangular windows. The short sanctuary has rendered side walls.

Inside, the five timber laminated trusses which support the roof are prominent. The main worship space has a bare brick dado, plastered walls and a ceiling which is boarded between the trusses. The font (figure 1), said to be made from stone for Stanley Abbey, was moved into the main body of the church in the 1980s. The marble altar appears to be the original one, brought forward (and probably cut down) in the 1980s, when bronze chalice and ears of wheat sculptures by Seán Crampton were added to the frontal. The fine welded phosphor-bronze Stations of the Cross (1983 and 1986) and cast bronze sculpture of the Annunciation (2000) are also by Crampton. A mahogany statue of St Edmund is by David John, and was acquired for the old church in 1955. The nave windows are clear glazed. The cast glass and epoxy resin panels in the sanctuary walls were made in 1968 by Geoffrey Robinson for the Catholic chapel at RAF Lyneham, and were brought here after that building was demolished in 2011. The open-backed benches were installed in 1986.

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Not established

Original Date: 1962

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed