Austenwood Lane, Chalfont St Peter, Bucks
A curious hybrid building of two dates; of the uncompleted earlier church of 1914 survives one external wall and a richly-decorated small chantry chapel typical of the Edwardian era. The main church of 1962 is concrete-framed and more utilitarian, though still vestigially Gothic in its details.
The Carmelite Friars established a mother house in Kensington in 1866. In 1909 the Carmelite Fathers established a mission at Chesham, Bucks at the invitation of Frederick Keating, Bishop of Northampton. Just before the First World War the Carmelites acquired property at Gerrards Cross consisting of a house called Malherbe and over two acres of land. The house became St Joseph’s Priory and the community took up residence in September 1913. Plans for a new church were prepared by Percy A. Lamb RIBA and the foundation stone was laid in July 1914. A south aisle with Lady Chapel, chantry and sacristies was constructed before the War stopped work. The building remained uncompleted until 1962, when it was finished to a different plan prepared by Percy Kelly LRIBA of Hastie, Winch and Kelly, incorporating some of the earlier structure. The chantry chapel and sacristies were retained and attached to a wide concrete-framed new building.
The church is a large gaunt building in a diluted version of the Gothic style. The exterior walls are faced in red brick with windows surrounds and dressings of stone and red tile roof-coverings. On plan, the building now consists of a broad aisleless nave of the 1960s with an earlier chantry chapel on the north side and sacristies at the northeast corner.
The broad west front has a rose window in the gable and a central flat-topped projecting porch with a traceried parapet. To the left of the porch is part of the original 1914 church comprising an octagonal tower and a two storey section with mullioned windows. On the south side the main church building has six bays of pointed, traceried two-light windows; attached to this side is a low flat-topped single storey range like a side aisle but housing confessionals and side chapels. On the north side of the church the external walls belong to the 1914 church, with the original north aisle wall, a three-bay chantry building under its own pitched roof, and three bays of the sacristy with four-light stepped windows under pointed arches. The sanctuary is a simple single-bay projection under a pitched roof.
The interior of the main church is very broad and spacious with exposed concrete trusses rising to an ornamental ceiling strip. At the east end of the nave is a deep gallery, at the east end, glazed-in beneath. A tall pointed arch flanked by lower arches opens to the sanctuary. The building is clear glazed throughout. The bench seating is presumably original. On the north side, the 1960s building was set directly against the north and east wall of the existing Lady Chapel and the existing arcade opening to the chantry. The result of the latter is a curious counterpoint between arched openings of the 1960s and the earlier and more elaborate stone arcade behind. The earlier building was obviously fitted up with some elaboration, as witness the gilt carved and canopied reredos of the Lady Chapel altar and the wall decoration of marble and gold mosaic with a plaque commemorating the donors, William Van Vleck Lidgerwood and his wife. The chantry chapel is even more richly-decorated with marble arcading below the windows, mosaic wall coverings, stained glass windows and a tomb chest under a recess on the west wall.
Original Date: 1915
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed