Buckland and Faringdon - Blessed Hugh Faringdon

Marlborough Street, Faringdon, Oxfordshire

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Attractive early-mid chapel, built for Nonconformist use, un-archaeologically Gothic with some hybrid classical detail. Located in the heart of Faringdon, within a designated conservation area, and listed grade II. The interior retains its gallery and a later organ. The church hall, built in the early twentieth century, is also of some architectural interest.

This former Nonconformist chapel became a Catholic church in about 1975. Before that the site had been in Nonconformist use since about 1800, when a Lincolnshire builder called John Fidel built a chapel, having come to Faringdon to supervise the construction of Beckett House in Shrivenham.

The present church was built in 1840. According to a history written by an anonymous author in 1975 (www.faringdon.org/hycongch.htm) the new building was an extension of the existing church, which was on the same axis as the present building but set back further from the road. The cost of the new church was £740.

In 1863 the manse which stood in front of the current building was removed to make the present approach. In the 1870s the Nonconformists spent £120 buying a school room; this was presumably near or beside the church. The existing organ, in the gallery, was installed during the ministry of Reverend J.H. Fry, between 1883 and 1889.

During the Second World War the church was used as a canteen and cinema for troops stationed in the area.

Hugh of Faringdon was an English Tudor martyr. Born in the late fifteenth century, probably in Faringdon, he was elected Abbot of Reading in 1520, and later became one of Henry VIII’s chaplains. He sat in Parliament from 1523 to 1539. In 1539, Faringdon declined to surrender Reading Abbey, was accused of high treason and sentenced to death. 

The church has rubble stone walls and a slate roof. The front, northwest-facing elevation is rendered and has ashlar stone dressings to the windows, quoins and gable-ended battlement. The front is three-bay, with two large Gothic windows and a central entrance with ashlar-fronted, rusticated porch. The porch is topped by a mini-battlement with a trefoil cut out of the ‘pediment’. The sides and rear elevation of the church are unrendered, with two large Gothic windows in each side (those in the south wall are blind because the sacristy adjoins this side). The windows of the front and north elevations have wooden frames with Y-tracery and large panes of plain glass. The east windows contain small panes of clear leaded glass with Harlequin borders of red, blue and yellow glass. The windows of the north and east elevations are set in brick surrounds with small keystones.

The interior has recently been stripped as part of the current refurbishment. Regrettably, the nave pews (date not established) were sawn up before they were removed. The only surviving fittings of interest are the gallery, gallery pews and staircase, and the 1880s organ. Below the gallery is a later twentieth century partition which hides the cast iron columns supporting the gallery.

The two-storey building adjoining the south wall of the nave now serves as a sacristy. Its earlier use has not been established, but it was probably a vestry or meeting rooms. It appears to have been built around the same time as the church hall, probably in the early twentieth century.

The buildings which link the sacristy to the church hall, east of the church, house a lavatory and other facilities. They are single storey, built in the later twentieth century, and hold no architectural interest. The church hall, described in the 2002 quinquennial inspection as ‘extremely dangerous’, is currently being repaired. The exterior is red bricks, with a mottle of vitrified bricks. The windows are large and square, and contain small panes of clear glass. The roof is timber framed and encloses a large, open space subdivided only at one end. 

Diocese: Portsmouth

Architect: Unknown

Original Date: 1840

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II