Amersham, Buckinghamshire – St Michael & All Angels

Amersham on the Hill was built when the Metropolitan Line came to town. The best known film of this is John Betjeman’s Metroland – which you can watch here. There is also a 1910 film of the line here. Here is the Underground station, with a Chiltern Line train en route for Marylebone.

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Land was obtained for an Anglican church in 1919, but they soon decided the plans they had were too expensive – nothing changes! The church of St Michael and All Angels was founded a while ago, but this building celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. Four years after it was open they started finding problems with it, and another four years later they talked about knocking it down and moving. It took until 2005/6 before the building was brought up to the high standard it is now. It is on the main street, with Waterstone’s and various coffee shops, and the glass doors are easy to open. It had a lovely atmosphere – Liberal Catholic with a good musical tradition, and they have a good website.

october a 320The church was designed by A. Hodson Archard, who seems to have built several nearby Catholic churches. It was built by local builders H.J. and A. Wright. The statue of St Michael over the West door is by Joseph Cribb (1892 to 1967) who was Eric Gill’s first apprentice from 1906-13. It is quite striking.

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The Square was made from a 1960s forecourt, and they added a quiet garden and a labyrinth. This work was done in 2012, and the glass doors were part of the plan – it has made the church more welcoming. The windows and angel surrounds were designed by Suzanne Raffellini. Michael is usually depicted as a Roman general accompanied by armed angels. Here the deliberately androgynous angels protect and guard, while leaning on a spear and having a lowered sword. They need to get the right balance between welcoming worshippers and offering God’s protection. The rays from behind the central star pass behind the angels and wrap the light around the door. The impression of feathers is made by thousands of tiny bubbles in the glass. Each panel is constructed in the traditional manner using what the leaflet describes as “a network of lead”.

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Inside it is a lovely, white, airey church, with the altar central. The organ is a Walker which dates back to 1895, originally from a house in Coleshill. It was rebuilt in 1966. The statue of Christ over the west door came from the old church. The large hanging statue of Christ the King over the sanctuary is an enlarged copy by Joseph Cribb of the original.

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62 - november 2015 030october a 31462 - november 2015 023In the Lady Chapel is a carved and painted reredos (I have just learned that reredos means “behind the back”). It was given by Lady Kenwood in memory of her son who died in WW2. The four shields on the tree show the scroll of the Torah and the book of the Gospels. The scales are often associated with St Michael. We have the food and the purse that Jesus told his disciples to take with them, and the lily is associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary. I like the icon too. Glad to have visited!

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