Building » Marlow – St Peter

Marlow – St Peter

St Peter’s Street, Marlow, Bucks

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

A small church by the leading Catholic architect A.W.N. Pugin, designed for the convert Charles Scott Murray and built in 1846. The church epitomises Pugin’s pursuit of the essence of the medieval English county parish church  and  its   fittings  were made by Pugin’s  favourite craftsmen. Francis Pollen’s addition of 1970 is of interest in its own right as a tactful but unmistakably modern addition to a historic building.

The first Catholic mission in Marlow dates from 1844. The land for the present church was given by the convert Charles Scott Murray MP of nearby Danesfield, who also paid for the building and endowed the mission with £2,000 on condition that he and his heirs were allowed to nominate the priest. It may be partly for this reason that the church retains most of its original fittings. Pugin was recommended to Murray by the future Cardinal Wiseman,  and Pugin’s patron the Earl of Shrewsbury was also involved in the project. Besides the church, Pugin almost certainly designed the gateway which provides the main entrance to the churchyard and may also have  designed  the  presbytery  and  school,  although  these  were completed by E.W. Pugin (information from Rory O’Donnell).

By the late twentieth century the church was too small for its congregation. In 1968-70 an extension, which is in effect a separate church, was built to the east of the original building and linked to it through the east end of the north aisle. The Pugin church was otherwise left intact. The new building was designed by Francis Pollen.

Description

See also the rather brief list description, below. This dates from 1949, and therefore makes no mention of Pollen’s 1968-70 addition.

This is a small rural church, faced in flint, with stone dressings and roof coverings of red tiles. The plan, comprising northwest tower, nave, southwest porch, chancel, north aisle and Lady Chapel is asymmetrical to an extent that neither function nor the site required. The Lady Chapel is shorter than the chancel and the tower is built in bond with the west front of the nave. The tower has a stone broach spire. The south side of the nave has two two-light windows with mouchettes in the tracery. The chancel has one small lancet and a triple window under a shallow pointed head with reticulated tracery.  The main elevation of the extension which extends southeast of the chancel is treated as a stepped wall faced in flint. For the most part the new building was set against existing garden walls but the exposed rear wall is of white engineering brick.

The interior effectively consists of two completely separate buildings. The Pugin church has a nave with plain plastered and whitened walls, red and black chequer floor tiles and a scissor-beam roof. Two moulded and chamfered arches on a single octagonal stone column open into the narrow north aisle. Dividing the nave from the chancel is a stone openwork screen designed by Pugin and made by George Myers.

Immediately in front of the screen on the south nave wall is the elaborate Gothic tomb of the founder Charles Scott Murray and members of his family.  On the north side of the screen is the original stone pulpit. The chancel has decorative encaustic floor tiles, a piscina and sedilia on the southern wall, a carved and painted stone reredos, presumably designed by Pugin and a boarded timber roof painted blue with stars and the emblem of St Peter. Many of the windows are filled with stained glass by Hardman, one of which was donated by the Earl of Shrewsbury and both nave and aisle have their original wooden benches.

A short passage below the east window of the former Lady Chapel leads to the new church, which has a fan-shaped interior with a stone and parquet floor, bare brick walls, a flat timber boarded ceiling and benches. The space is lit by strip clerestory windows facing towards the sanctuary which is marked by a large mosaic panel of Our Lord on the east wall.

List descriptions

Church

II

1846 by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Flint with stone dressings. Unsymmetrical West front facing street with gabled end to nave and tower on North side, with broached stone spire. Contains famous relic said to be hand of St James the Apostle, possibly that of St Anastasius, martyred in C7. (Both these relics originally in Reading Abbey). Rood screen by G Myers and metal work and glass by Hardman. Listing NGR: SU8521686361

Lych gate

II

Lych Gate in stone with Gothic arch probably also designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Listing NGR: SU8516486333

Schoolmaster’s house

II

Mid C19 school master’s house in Gothic style of 2 storeys in flint with brick dressings and quoins. Probably by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin or associate at same time as Roman Catholic Church (qv). 3 bay composition with 3 gables having handsome bargeboards. (Bargeboards on the end elevation also). The centre gable is larger. Windows have stone mullions in Tudor style. To left an off centre porch with gabled roof and Tudor style arched doorway. There is also one ground floor bay window on the north end. Tile roof. Listing NGR: SU8521986326

Heritage Details

Architect: A. W. N. Pugin; Francis Pollen

Original Date: 1846

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II