High Street, Aylesbury, Bucks
A small town centre church, the Gothic design old-fashioned for its date.
In 1843 or 1844 a mission dedicated to St Martin was established in Aylesbury, and the Earl of Shrewsbury gave money for an altar. A contemporary account described the neighbourhood as ‘most benighted, and there is not perhaps a more furiously anti-Catholic locality in England (The Tablet, 3 February 1844). According to the parish history, plans for a church were drawn up A. W. Pugin, but independent verification for this has not been found. The mission closed in 1857. Thereafter the small number of Aylesbury Catholics had to travel to Northampton or Wolverton, although Mass was sometimes said in local houses.
In 1888 Bishop Riddell sent Fr James Collins to re-establish the mission. A site was obtained at the bottom of the High Street and a large new presbytery built, into which Fr Collins moved in 1892. A temporary iron church was built alongside this, opened by the Bishop of Northampton in December of that year. In 1899 Fr Thomas Scott took over the mission, and made various alterations to the iron church, including a rood screen, and the placing of a large painting of an angel at the west end. In 1904 a stone font was given.
In April 1934 the bishop gave permission for a new, permanent church, to be built on the site of the iron church. On 14 January 1937 the bishop laid the foundation stone, and the church was officially opened on 14 April of the same year. The architects were Pullan & Ronchetti of Harrogate, the builders Webster & Cannon of Aylesbury. The church was built to seat 300, and the cost was £4,368.
In a reordering of 1976 the altar was moved into the nave, being placed on the south side, with the seating arranged around it. A new altar, lectern, paschal candle, Stations of the Cross etc were designed and made by parishioners, with two carved wooden statues of Our Lady and St Joseph by Sue Benenson added later. In 1983 the church roof was damaged by fire. The building was repaired and reordered under the direction of the architect George Mathers, and reopened in December 1983. The most notable feature of the reordering was a new engraved glass screen in the chancel arch.
The Buildings of England describes the church as ‘brick, Gothic, small and insignificant’. It is a small Gothic Revival church, conservative for its date, built of wire-cut Fletton bricks with stone/reconstituted stone dressings under a tile roof. The west front is set back from the High Street and has a three-light Decorated window in the gable and a canted porch below, also gabled, with a built in projecting brick cross over the arched entrance, which contains modern doors. The northern flank elevation consists of six bays, each separated by a stepped buttress, with a short single-light window in the western bay and two-light windows with cusped tracery in the remaining bays. The southern elevation is built up against the 1892 presbytery. At the east end is a lower canted chancel, five-sided, with stepped buttresses at the angles and windows set into the diagonal bays. The wider central bay is blind, with a central buttress.
A lobby under a western gallery leans into the main space, consisting of an aisleless nave, with a short eastern chancel, separated from the nave by a moulded chancel arch. The internal walls are of painted brick, with an open timber roof of tie-beams with king posts, queen struts and purlins. Only the north side of the nave is lit; the south wall abuts the presbytery and is therefore windowless. The altar is placed on the south side of the nave, and the original 1937 benches arranged around this. The chancel arch was been enclosed with glass to form a separate Blessed Sacrament chapel, with engraved designs on the glass by Bryant Fedden of Cheltenham (1983). At low level by the chancel arch are carved timber statues of Our Lady and St Joseph, by Sue Benenson. In the chancel are two stained glass windows, the Virgin and Child (in memory of Adelaide Oldham) and St Joseph (Oldham family).
Architect: Pullan & Ronchetti
Original Date: 1937
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed