Chesham - St Columba

Berkhamstead Road, Chesham, Buckinghamshire

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A large church in modern Italian Romanesque style, its tall campanile something of a local landmark.

In 1908 Chesham was served by the Carmelites, who converted a disused railway hut to a chapel. In 1909 they bought two houses with adjoining land in Khartoum Avenue (later Eskdale Avenue, Chesham), and Mass was said there. The first resident priest was Fr Francis Lamb ODC. In 1910 the matron at the Epileptic Colony at Chalfont St Peter made a room available as a chapel, but six months later the Mass centre was transferred to the home of Capt. Gerard Ford at Water Hall, Chalfont St Peter. In 1912 a new chapel of St Gerard was opened at Chalfont St Peter, and remained open until towards the end of the First World War.

In 1913 the Carmelites opened churches at Gerrards Cross and Chesham Bois (q.v.). The next major development was in 1949, when Fr (later Canon) Leonard Tomlinson was appointed parish priest at Chesham Bois; he extended the church there in 1953 and then turned his attention to acquiring land for a church in Chesham, where Mass was being said in an overcrowded British Legion hall. (Fr Tomlinson also built the church  of  St  Aidan  at  Little  Chalfont,  q.v.).  Land  was  acquired  for  the  present building in 1956 and the foundation stone laid on 30 August 1959. The church was built from designs by Archard & Partners of London, with H. J. & A. Wright of Great Missenden the contractors. It was opened by Bishop Parker in June 1960. The total cost of the church, which seated 250 people, was £22,800. Relics of St. Edmund of Abingdon, Archbishop of Canterbury (1233-1240) are deposited in the altar, along with a stone from the island of Iona. In 1997 the church was reordered and consecrated by Bishop McCartie.

The church is a large structure in modern Italian Romanesque style, built of orange- red  brick  laid  in  Flemish  bond.  It  consists  of  a  wide  nave  with  lean-to  side projections, and a narrower chancel. A brick campanile is placed asymmetrically at the northwest corner, tall and square on plan, with a shallow pyramidal roof. Steep pantiled roofs to the nave; the chancel roof is hidden by a raised parapet. The main entrance is up a flight of steps to a central entrance, within a gabled projection. Above this, the gabled west front has a central round window, with narrow round arched windows to the recessed bays on either side. At the sides, a combination of round arched windows to the flank walls, with straight headed metal framed windows in the lean-to projections. The presbytery is joined onto the church at the east.

The interior has not been inspected. The above photograph of the sanctuary was taken soon after the opening of the church in 1960; it was reordered in 1997.

Diocese: Northampton

Architect: Archard & Partners

Original Date: 1960

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed