High Street, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire
From 1938 Great Missenden was part of the new parish of Princes Risborough. There was no church, and Mass was said over a butcher’s shop, in private houses, and in the village hall.
The parish was established in 1954 at the Old Surgery, which had been acquired by the Dutch province of the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts. The building was renamed Damien House after the order’s missionary leper priest, and contained a chapel seating about 90.
The present church, with a new Damien House behind it, was built in 1964 from designs by Ian Preston, with H.J. and A. Wright Ltd the contractors. The church was blessed by Bishop Grant (then auxiliary to Bishop Parker) in July 1964. Advantage was taken of the sloping site to build a hall below the back of the church, but this was not finished and fitted out until 1974.
The Sacred Heart fathers withdrew in 1995, since which time the church has been served by a diocesan priest. In 2004 a major addition was built at the rear, from designs by Greenhalgh & Williams of Bolton (job architect Paul Flood, information from the parish), housing a hall and other facilities, with a screened off chapel at the rear of the church. The church was consecrated by Bishop Doyle in June 2007.
As extended, the church has a butterfly roof, rising towards the street elevation and the rear. It is faced in red brick laid in stretcher bond, with a flat reinforced concrete roof. The street frontage is modelled by a projecting central bay with butterfly wings, giving diffuse indirect light into the chancel. Mounted externally upon this is a large and striking modern steel sculpture of the Madonna and Child Fighting off the Serpent, by Mr Renouf, the art master at Worth Abbey School, given by the architect and his wife (1975). Recessed aluminium windows to the side elevations, and a porch at the mid-way point on the north side. The extensions at the rear are also in brick, with a shallow curve to the end wall facing Damien House.
The interior is a single space, apart from a screened off chapel area at the back of the church. At the liturgical west end the floor level is higher, on account of the hall below. There are steps down into the main body of the nave. In the sanctuary is a stone forward altar, and in the corner a tabernacle of polished stainless steel on an Ancaster stone base, by David John. On the sanctuary wall is a striking painted modern Crucifixion of 1996 by the late Paul Stevenson, who with his wife Rosemary guided much of the adornment of the church in recent years. At the back of the church the glass screen is engraved with the seal of Great Missenden Abbey and records also the more recent contribution of the Sacred Hearts Fathers. According to the parish history there is a Flemish painted limewood figure of Our Lady dating from about 1600 in the chapel; this has not been seen by the writer.
Original Date: 1964
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed