Buckingham - St Bernadine of Siena

Chandos Road, Buckingham, Buckinghamshire

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A 1970s church of unprepossessing external appearance, but with a striking internal interior with some features and furnishings of note. The adjoining 19th  century presbytery is notable as the only house in Buckingham to be constructed in ‘Buckingham marble’.

The church is located in Chandos Road, created in 1853 to link Buckingham railway station with the town centre.  It is dedicated to the Franciscan St Bernardine of Siena. The mission was established in 1892 when Fr Thaddeus Hermans, a Belgian friar, arrived in Buckingham with a view to establishing a college for young men wishing to become Franciscans. He rented a cottage in Elm Street, where he said the first Mass, finally settling at 9 Chandos Road, where he set up a chapel. Later he obtained a site on the London Road and by 1895 had built a college, placed under the patronage of St Bernardine. The college chapel was opened for public worship in 1912.

The parish grew after World War II, with the friars opening Mass centres in the surrounding area, including Brackley. In 1968 the college closed and the buildings were sold to the County Council, but the friars were able to continue to use the chapel until the parish could build its own. Eventually it was decided to build onto the new Friary in Chandos Road, where the Friars had set up their first chapel. The new church  was  designed  by  George  A. J.  Mathers  ARIBA  of  Williams  &  Mathers, Cheltenham and was blessed on 26 October 1974 by Bishop Grant. It was dedicated in 1982 and in 1989 the parish came into the care of the Diocese of Northampton.

The church has an unassuming external appearance (photo top left), alongside and set back from the frontage of the adjoining mid-19th century presbytery. There is little about the external appearance to denote its function as a church, apart from the entrance doors by Angela Godfrey, with high relief grp representation of the IHS monogram with rays shining forth, this traditionally associated with depictions of St Bernardine.   To the left of the entrance is a garage door. The wall to the right is faced in stone. Above is a prominent mansard-type slate roof with four dormer windows, lighting ancillary roms over the entrance lobby. The form of the church is more apparent in the view from the courtyard garden behind the presbytery; over the stone-faced low north wall is a long shallow sloping slate roof, with a raised clerestory towards the top.

A low entrance lobby contains WCs and stairs to the right leading up to ancillary rooms over. The levels drop down into the main space of the church, consisting of a single space, with a raised clerestory on the south side lighting the south wall and a long monopitch roof down to the north side. The boarded roof is supported by thick laminated raking trusses, which in turn is carried on laminated posts towards the low north side. The north and east walls are plastered and painted, the north wall is faced in painted concrete blocks. At the west end a door leads into the sacristy and presbytery and some of the former external exposed stonework of the presbytery is retained as a feature.

The  furnishings  include  a  reredos  and  tabernacle  surround  on  the  east  wall  by Stephen  Foster,  who  has  worked  widely  in  the  Diocese.  The  reredos  replaced  a painted Crucifixion influenced by Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross, possibly by Martin Hughes, who painted the dramatic mural Stations of the Cross on the north wall (photo bottom right). On the south wall under the eaves are panels of coloured dalle de verre glass, from the workshop of Dom. Charles Norris at Buckfast Abbey, Devon. Furnishings brought from the former chapel include a statue of St Bernardine in the southwest corner of the church, the pews, the organ and the octagonal stone font (1946).

Diocese: Northampton

Architect: George Mathers ARIBA

Original Date: 1974

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed