Chesham Blois - Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

Amersham Road, Chesham Bois, Bucks

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An  early  20th   century  church  with  some  attractive  Gothic  detailing, much altered and extended in the 1950s.

The old village of Chesham Bois expanded from the 1890s after the extension of the Metropolitan Line to Chesham and Amersham. In 1908 Chesham was served by the Carmelites, who converted a disused railway hut to a chapel. This was replaced by a second hand iron building in 1910, and in 1915 by the present building, initially built to seat 50 (a photograph of the small original structure is displayed in the church lobby). The site, of just over half an acre, was acquired for £145, and the architect of the present church, according to a letter in the Diocesan archives, a Mr Arthur Young. At about this time the Carmelites moved to Gerrards Cross, but continued to serve Chesham Bois until 1917, since when it has been served by diocesan priests.

The adjoining presbytery was built in 1924. In 1949 Fr (later Canon) Leonard Tomlinson was appointed parish priest; he extended the church in 1953 by the addition of a new sanctuary and south aisle, with a new parish hall (the Guildroom) attached to the rear of the sanctuary. This increased the seating accommodation to

180. Continued expansion led to the establishment by Fr Tomlinson of new parishes and  churches  at  Chesham  (1960)  and  Little  Chalfont  (1965).  These  were  both designed  by  Archard  &  Partners  of  London,  and  certain  similarities  with  the additions at Chesham Bois suggest that the same practice worked here.

The church occupies a long, thin site, and is long and thin on plan. It consists of a nave of eight bays with a west tower, projecting Lady Chapel to the north and a south aisle giving off the three eastern bays; to the east of this is the later chancel and parish hall. The nave walls are faced with painted pebbledash render, with stone dressings. The later sanctuary and parish rooms are faced in brick. The roofs are clad with plain tiles, and there are also tiles on the offsets to the western buttresses of the nave (those further east have been rebuilt in brick, presumably in 1953). The west tower has timber boarded sides and a tile roof. 

The chief architectural expression is reserved for the west front, where two bold stepped buttresses flank the wide entrance doors, within a stone arched doorway with mouchettes in the spandrels. Immediately over this, and occupying the full width of the central bay, is a flat-topped three-light window with Reticulated tracery. The bays on either side of the entrance each have a narrow trefoil-headed light in stone surround. The square, weatherboarded timber belfry tower rises above the entrance, capped with a pyramidal roof.

The flank elevations are more plainly treated, with a two-light trefoil window with flat head in each bay. The bays are marked by buttresses with tiled offsets (and by plainer brick buttress further east). On the north side the Lady Chapel gives off from the third bay, with a Gothic doorway with stone surround on its west side. The chancel is faced in brick; it has east and west raised parapets, and a higher ridge than that of the nave. It has similar window details to those of the nave, apart from a large circular window set high in the eastern gable, with a creased tile surround. Below this, the brick parish hall building of 1953 is of its time, with a flat roof hidden by a parapet with concrete coping, and metal windows in raised concrete surrounds.

The main entrance leads into a small lobby beneath a western choir gallery. The long thin  nave  (originally  nave  and  sanctuary)  has  an  arch  braced  timber  roof  with verticals over the collars. The Lady Chapel gives off on the north side, three bays from the west end, through a round-headed arch; the step down into this indicates that it might have been built as a baptistery. A south aisle gives off the three eastern bays of the nave, with round-arched arcades. A large rounded arch leads into the 1953 sanctuary, which has a rafter purlin roof, flat east end, and high circular window.

The furnishings include a stone Gothic altar, presumably the original or earlier altar cut down and brought forward,  a large concrete pulpit  at the chancel arch,  iron communion rails, plain timber benches. There are two sets of Stations of the Cross; one of large square painted panels fixed to the sloping undersides of the nave roof, the other of smaller carved items on the nave walls.  Stained glass includes a copy of the famous image of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in the round east window, given by parishioners in 1953; a window in the sanctuary to John Jackson, killed at Hooge in 1917; St George in the Lady Chapel, in memory of Arthur Bourchier, killed at Fronelles in 1915, and in the nave to the west of this windows of 1935  commemorating  the  canonisation  of  Thomas  More  and  John  Fisher,  and windows to John Galvin of Westmeath, depicting St Patrick and Our Lady.

Diocese: Northampton

Architect: Arthur Young

Original Date: 1915

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed