BEACONSFIELD, Buckinghamshire – St Michael. 


The original design was for a large building able to seat 650 people. In the end, only the nave was built to Fellowes Prynne’s design, as the thirties depression and the Second World War combined to render his plans too costly and ambitious.

A simpler, modern style chancel with sanctuary was built on to Fellowes Prynne’s nave. The effect to the observer is inevitably of a “time warp” with Fellowes Prynne’s “old” nave contrasting considerably with the modern east end.

Of particular interest, as regards detail, are the neo-Norman pillars, round, with spiral decoration, similar to those found at St. Peter, Ilfracombe. This makes an interesting and effective juxtaposition with the essentially Early English style of the rest of the nave. The original plans apparently incorporated a stone altar and altar rails: this use of stone for the altar rails would have been unique, as far as I know, among Fellowes Prynne’s high altar and sanctuary designs.

To quote from the booklet outlining the history of St Michael’s, by Joy Green:

…Mr. G. H. Fellowes Prynne F. R. I. B. A. was commissioned to design the building. Fellowes Prynne was perhaps the greatest church architect of his time, and the plan he produced for the new church in Beaconsfield was typical of his work. The design was for a large and imposing building which would seat 650 people; a fairly elaborate modern gothic structure with a spire. The interior would be spacious and beautiful, with arches, bays, stone pillars and carved wooden roof.  The sanctuary was to be a riot of colour and decoration, with an impressive stone altar under a canopy (or Tester), stone altar rails with a wrought iron gate, a carved rood screen, and stained glass windows behind the altar.  The cost of the whole structure was estimated at £7,600.  The 1914-18 War, combined with a shortage of money, caused delays and in fact the plan of Fellowes Prynne was never put completely into effect… By 1916, a modified structure had been completed, at a cost of £4,000, which was the most that could be found.  The Western end of the church was built exactly to plan, of a stone known as Kentish Ragg, and a temporary East End was constructed of asbestos.


The postcard shown, dated 1922, shows the church prior to the later completion of the building. The photo features the unusual and beautiful decoration on the pillars of the nave.