Amersham Road, Chesham Bois, Bucks
An early twentieth century church with some attractive Gothic and vernacular detailing, 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. The Tablet wrote (16 January 1915):
‘The new building, which will be opened at Easter, is from the designs of Mr. Arthur Young, of South Square, Gray’s Inn, and will be a small village church of late Perpendicular period, consisting of nave, sanctuary, and sacristy, rough-cast walls, and tiled roof, surmounted by a wooden bell turret capped with a pyramidical spirelet. The general appearance, well suited to this charming Chiltern district, will be typical of the smaller country churches not uncommon in South Bucks’.
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; added a sanctuary and south aisle in 1953, 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 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, possibly 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 (signed Antoine Acket); 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 (by J. E. Nuttgens), and windows to John Galvin of Westmeath, depicting St Patrick and Our Lady (signed F. Humphries).
Amended by AHP 24.01.2021
Architect: Arthur Young
Original Date: 1915
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed