Lower Britwell Road, Burnham, Bucks
A church 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 some good original furnishings.
The church is built on land purchased in 1930 with money lent by the diocese. The first church was a wooden building erected in 1936 under the supervision of Mgr C. W. Smith, parish priest at Beaconsfield. Until then, Mass for local Catholics had been said in private houses or in hired rooms. The wooden church was enlarged with a sanctuary and brick sacristy in 1944. In 1946 Fr Denis Brennan built a small presbytery, followed two years later by a parish hall. He was succeeded in 1948 by Fr Noel Burditt, who enlarged the presbytery in 1950 to accommodate two priests. Fundraising for a larger permanent church started in earnest in 1954 and in 1955 an architect was appointed. The new church was built from designs by H. Bingham Towner LRIBA and built by H. D. Bowyer of Slough. However, to save money the 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.
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 in this case unusually with some Tudoresque touches. The exterior is of brown brick with creamy stone window dressings and a tiled roof. At the east end, above the sanctuary, is a squat tower with pyramidal roof. The east, west and south faces of the tower have no windows and there is a statue of Our Lady in a niche on the east face, overlooking the road. The nave, accessed via a porch in the south side, has side aisles and clerestory windows.
Inside, the church is light and plainly decorated. The nave and aisles are separated by wide Tudoresque arches on white painted columns. The clerestory windows (in groups of two) and aisle windows (in groups of three) contain clear, leaded glass. The floor is tiled, and the wooden pews are original. A gallery at the west end contains the organ, rebuilt by Shepherd & Sons in the 1970s. Over the altar is an original timber canopy, moved to its current position following post-Vatican II reordering. The font now occupies the position of the high altar. The sanctuary is lit by high windows in the north face of the tower. There is a small chapel at the east end of the south aisle. A door at the east end of the north aisle leads to the sacristy and adjoining presbytery.
Architect: H. Bingham Towner
Original Date: 1958
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed