THE LEE, Buckinghamshire – St John the Baptist. 

Restoration 1910

Extract from Coronation Year Records of the Parish of The Lee (MCMXI) gives a good summary of the work done. 

Details of the work which was completed in September 1910 (and completed in 8 months) are as follows:

Structural and engineering work:-

  1. The extension and re-roofing of the Chancel (including new stone sedilia, piscina and East window);
  2. The addition of two transepts;
  3. The addition of a Baptistery (including a new West window);
  4. The addition of a vestry;
  5. Laying a wood block floor in the nave;
  6. Rearrangement of the Pews;
  7. The removal and re-erection of the Organ;
  8. Excavating a Chamber for a Heating Furnace, providing furnace, carrying pipes throughout the building, and providing radiators:
  9. Excavating a Chamber for, and providing, a Gas-engine, carrying a gas supply throughout the building and to the entrance gate of the Church yard;
  10. The laying on of a water supply.

Interior Fitments and Decorative work:-

  1. The stained glass windows in the East and West Ends;
  2. The Mosaic flooring in front of Choir Stalls, and the Mosaic flooring and marble steps in the Sanctuary and Baptistery;
  3. The carved oak roof, altar, altar rails, choir stalls, priest’s desks, choir screens and pulpit;
  4. The aumbrey, the oak wall panelling, oak Vestry fittings and furniture;
  5. The wrought metal candelabras, coronas and gas pendants throughout the building &c.

Particularly attractive here is the wooden carved roof, with its bosses, and the abundance of other beautiful carved work, unsurprising once you realise that these works were undertaken by the firm of Liberty & Co.!

A publication of 1911 called Buckinghamshire: A Short History with Genealogies and current Biographies, edited by John Grant, gave the story of the extension of the church at The Lee, and the involvement of Arthur Lasenby Liberty, Esquire, best known as founder of Liberty and Co Ltd.  He made his home at Lee Manor.  From page 264 of the booklet, we read:

For some time past, Mr. Liberty has had a scheme in hand for the improvement of the parish church of St. John the Baptist, wherein the solitary nave afforded an all too inadequate seating accommodation for the increased number of the inhabitants, and both chancel and vestry were equally insufficient in size.  Just about eighteen months ago, having obtained the advice of so eminent an authority as Mr. C. [sic] H. Fellowes Prynne, F.R.I.B.A. the work was put in hand, Mr. Liberty guaranteeing the necessary funds, with the proviso that a portion was to be defrayed by public subscription.

In May of the present year, the Lord Bishop of Oxford dedicated the important additions to the church, which include a baptistry and a new vestry, as well as the extension of the nave, and two new transepts, chambers being provided for both heating and gas supply purposes, for the church will require its own gas engine. 

The decorative work of the interior has all been carried out in carved oak, including the chancel roof and wall pannelling, [sic] choir screens and stalls.  Both chancel and baptistry floors are mosaic, and the steps of white marble.  Out of an estimated cost of £3,500, about £550, the amount agreed upon, has been raised by subscription, and the balance of £3,000 has been generously provided by Mr. and Mrs. Liberty.

For further insight into this work, here are extracts from a report in the Buckinghamshire Herald of 13 May 1911.

…The Lord Bishop of Oxford…performed the office of dedication in connection with the important additions to the Church and its interior fitments which have been provided by benefactions and public subscriptions during the past twelve months…

The undertaking now brought to so successful an issue, has been for some years in contemplation.  The present Church was built in 1869 to take the place of a building still standing in the adjacent graveyard.  In the new Church, however, the cramped construction of the chancel and vestry proved a source of great inconvenience, and for many years past the rest of the building (a nave only) afforded insufficient accommodation for the increased number of inhabitants in the district.  In 1908, on the suggestion of the patron of the living, Mr. Liberty, a committee was formed to promote a scheme of improvement.  Plans were prepared, and an estimate of the cost of the proposed work obtained, but on the suggestion of the former Vicar, who was about retiring from active duties, the formal application for a faculty was left over for the time being.  In December, 1909, immediately following the institution of the present Vicar, a new committee was formed, the advise of the eminent architect, Mr. G. H. Fellowes Prynne was obtained, the original scheme put aside, and a more extended one proposed.  In order to avoid delay Mr. Liberty guaranteed the necessary funds for commencing the work forthwith, on the understanding that a general voluntary effort would be made to provide an agreed portion of the cost.

The details of the constructional work undertaken included the extension of the nave, building of two transepts, a baptistry, and a vestry, the provision of a heating chamber with hot water pipes and radiators, a chamber for gas engine and gas supply.  The interior decorative work include stained glass window in the East of the building, a carved oak chancel roof, altar, altar rails, pulpit, priest’s desks, aumbry, choir screens and stalls, and wall panelling: oak furniture for vestry, candelabra, gas pendants throughout the building, mosaic flooring and marble steps in the chancel and baptistry: tapestries and hangings, &c. Some of the beautiful carved oak work is not yet installed owing to the risk of injury from damp in the new walls.

The total cost of these various constructional and decorative works is estimated at about £3,500.  The result of these united efforts has transformed the interior of an attractive early Victorian building…

The structural additions and alterations have been ably carried out by Messrs. Honour and Son, of Tring, from the designs and under the supervision of Mr. G. H. Fellowes Prynne, F.R.I.B.A .  The carved oak work in the chancel roof, the stained glass in the east window and carved oak furniture and fittings, metal ornaments, and mosaics were designed and constructed by Messrs. Liberty and Co., Ltd., London.

Additional information and pictures are to be found on the website on the history of the village and the church.  The builder of the extension, Honour and Son of Tring, was the same builder as constructed the original church in the 1860s.  The internal decorative works were prepared by F. Terrell Brown, supervised by J Llewellyn and A. Liberty, and executed by Messrs. Liberty of London.

The undated postcard shows the interior of the church.