Chearsley Road, Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire
A remarkable example of a building erected at low cost and largely by the energy and initiative of the parish priest and volunteers. The building has a dodecagonal design and is built from the recycled moulds of a reinforced concrete portal frame. The most dramatic feature of the interior is the dalle de verre glass by Goddard and Gibbs.
In 1963 Fr Wilbur Boswell was appointed to establish a mission to serve Long Crendon and the surrounding area of rural Buckinghamshire. In 1965 a farmhouse property near the recreation ground was acquired with a view to building a Mass centre. One member of the building committee was John Butler of the Crendon Concrete Co., which had recently built an exhibition building for the agricultural college at Moulton, Northampton. Their design was for a twelve-sided hall with a frame of prestressed concrete piers bonded together by a crown. Butler persuaded the company to let him have the steel moulds for the piers, and in September 1967 the frame was erected at cost price (just over £2,000). The efforts of the parish were then directed towards the conversion of an old cottage to serve as a presbytery, while the brick cladding of the church was left to a group of part-time volunteers under Butler’s direction.
In the summer of 1969 the wood-wool slab roof was installed. That left only the windows, for which Fr Boswell’s mother offered to pay. Advice was sought from John Reyntiens at his studio at nearby Loudwater, who recommended the use of French antique glass laid in epoxy resin, the technique known as dalle de verre, popularised in this country by Dom Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey. The glass was made and installed by the firm of Goddard and Gibbs, at a cost of £5,000. The completed church was opened and blessed on 13 May 1971.
A twelve-sided church with reinforced concrete piers rising to a central oculus. The outer walls are clad in yellow brick, with the date and monograms in darker brick set into the wall on either side of the entrance. There is an outer aisle or ambulatory around the main worship space with large areas of dalle de verre glazing, and a raised clerestory above with clear glazing. Originally a freestanding design, there is now a slightly later flat-roofed parish hall alongside the entrance bay, linking the church and the presbytery (a former cottage, much rebuilt, facing the road).
The most remarkable feature of the interior is the richly coloured dalle de verre glass, on the theme of sunrise to sunset. This runs around the ambulatory. Otherwise the furnishings are an eclectic collection of items acquired from other churches or donated by well-wishers. The sanctuary is located centrally under the crown or central oculus and is dominated by a stone rubble backdrop representing Calvary. This is surmounted by figures of the Crucified Christ with Our Lady and St John, and below this, a circular stone rolls away in front of the tabernacle. The altar sits on an octagonal timber dais and beside this is a nineteenth century stone octagonal font, said by Mr Butler (the son of John Butler, the builder) to have come from Pugin’s church at Marlow. Behind the Calvary reredos a space has been formed for a small weekday altar, with salvaged altar rails from a former convent in Ipswich. The benches in the nave were specially made at a discount price by Vanpoulles of Sussex. The Stations of the Cross were also acquired from elsewhere, and were repainted by prisoners from Crendon Underwood under artistic supervision.
Architect: Crendon Concrete Co.
Original Date: 1971
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed