Burnham- Our Lady of Peace

Lower Britwell Road, Burnham, Bucks

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The church is in a stripped version of the loosely Basilican round-arched style so popular for Catholic churches in the interwar and early post- War years, although unusually with some Tudoresque touches. The interior has good original furnishings.

Burnham is situated north of the River Thames, between the towns of Maidenhead and Slough, on the border of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. The name of Burnham is  Anglo  Saxon  in  origin;  it  was  recorded  in  the  Domesday  Book  of  1086  as Burneham. Urban spread means the original village has almost merged with the western fringes of Slough.

In 1265 a Benedictine abbey was founded near the village; it was disbanded by Henry VIII during the Dissolution in the 1530s. The parish church of St Peter dates from the 12th century.

The church of Our Lady of Peace is built on land purchased in 1930 with money lent by the Diocese. The first church was a wooden building erected on a corner of the site in 1936 under the supervision of Mgr C.W. Smith, parish priest of Beaconsfield. Until then, Mass for local Catholics had been said in private houses or in hired rooms in Burnham. The wooden church was enlarged with the addition of a brick sacristy and sanctuary in 1944. In 1946, Fr Denis Brennan, who was initially Mgr Smith’s curate but who came to live in Burnham and oversaw the church’s early expansion there, built a small presbytery, followed two years later by a parish hall. Fr Brennan was succeeded in 1948 by Fr Noel Burditt, who enlarged the presbytery in 1950 to accommodate two priests.

Fundraising for a new church for the growing parish started in earnest in 1954. In 1955 the Bishop of Northampton visited and subsequently gave permission for the parish priest to consult an architect, despite the fact that funds for the new building were not yet in hand.

The new church was built to the designs of H. Bingham Towner LRIBA and built by H. D. Bowyer of Slough. However, to save money men of the parish cleared the site for the new church, dug foundation trenches, and, under the architect’s supervision, mixed and poured 180 tons of concrete reinforced with steel for the foundations. The builder started work on site on 7 December 1956, and the foundation stone was laid on 30 March 1957. The building was blessed and opened on 11 February 1958, on the centenary of the first appearance of Our Lady to Bernadette at Lourdes. Including fees and furnishings, the building cost £30,000.

The site of the old church, just to the south of the new one, was given to the Sisters of St Mary of Namur, who built a convent there. The former convent is now a nursery, and is no longer owned by the parish.

Diocese: Northampton

Architect: H. Bingham Towner LRIBA

Original Date: 1958

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed