Melksham - St Anthony of Padua

West End, Melksham, Wiltshire, SN12

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A plain but nicely-detailed modern Romanesque design, one of several in the diocese built just before the onset of the Second World War by Roberts & Willman of Taunton. The church has been extended at the rear but otherwise retains much of its original character.

Between 1858 and 1876 Mass was said in the chapel at Cottles, a large mansion near Melksham, where the Conolly family of Midford Castle employed a resident chaplain. After 1876 Melksham Catholics had to travel to Trowbridge or Devizes until in 1937 the Trustees of Clifton Diocese purchased a property called Southernlands on the edge of the town. Part of the house was adapted to serve as the presbytery and a church was built on part of the garden, the latter from designs by J. H. Willman of Roberts & Willman, Taunton. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Lee in March 1938 and the church was opened on 5 March 1939. Much of the cost of £2,500 was met by Mr and Mrs Seymour of Melksham. A parish hall was added to the east end of the church in 1998.

The church is in a simple modern Romanesque style. The plan comprises a nave, shallow transepts and short sanctuary. The external walls are faced with yellow brick laid in stretcher bond, the roofs are covered in red pantiles. The west end has brick-on-edge corner pilasters and a small round window in the gable. Below is a projecting brick porch with a round-headed entrance doorway with a statue of St Anthony in the tympanum. The side walls of the nave are divided into four bays by pilaster strips, with a simple round-headed window in each bay and a sacristy in the southeast bay with a catslide roof. The shallow transepts are slightly lower than the nave and have round-headed windows in their gable walls. The sanctuary is one bay deep, and is now enveloped by a yellow-brick church hall extension added in 1998.

The interior is simple, with a woodblock floor, plain plastered walls, clear-glazed windows and an open timber king-post roof painted white with the rafters concealed by white-painted boarding.  The shallow transepts have the original simple banded side altars. Both the Lady altar in the north transept and the high altar against the blind east wall of the shallow sanctuary have painted Italianate reredoses. They and the octagonal painted stone font by the west door are doubtless original to the church. The sanctuary has been reordered, with the communion rails removed and the floor extended into the crossing to carry a timber nave altar. 

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Roberts & Willman

Original Date: 1939

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed