Outside the church
The present church dates from 1870. It replaced an earlier building which had been consecrated in 1845, soon after which Chorleywood was established as a separate parish – previously it had been part of the parish of Rickmansworth. All that is left of the original church is the base of the tower, which now supports the oak-clad spire, which is such a feature of the local landscape. Christ Church School next door was founded in 1853.
The carriageway through the churchyard was originally the roadway which linked the main road with the school and the vicarage beyond.
The fine lych gate was given in 1920. The name ‘Lych’ (pronounced to rhyme with ‘pitch’) derives from the Old English word for a body: in earlier centuries, the roofs of lych gates often covered a stone plinth, on which coffins could be rested before funerals.
The new church
To accommodate increasing numbers of worshippers, it was decided to demolish the church and build a completely new one. George Street, best known for designing the Law Courts in the Strand, was appointed as the architect. The building was consecrated in 1870. The exterior is a mix of flint with both Bath and Wycombe stone.
Inside the church
The Victorian Gothic interior is less flamboyant than can be seen in many churches of the time. The six hanging brass coronae, which held candles, were adapted for electric light in 1927. George Street provided detailed drawings for the design of interior features, such as the stone carvings, the pulpit, the font and the chancel ceiling. As a result, the church is unusual in that it expresses the unified design concepts of one person at one point in time.
The Junction, the new church building
In 1973 a lounge was built outside the west end of the church, together with a kitchen, an office and, for the first time, toilets. However, the need for more extensive provision, offering full disabled access, led to the planning of a new building, called The Junction. This was opened in September 2011. The pitch of its roof harmonises with both the adjacent church and the school. The colour of the brick echoes that of the school. The brick-laying style, which dates from at least the 15th century, is called ‘Monk’s Bond’: it is rarely used in modern buildings.
The name ‘The Junction’ was chosen to reflect the wish that it will be a place where people will meet with God and with one another, and that its activities will provide opportunities and encouragement for many to discover the importance of Jesus Christ as we pursue our own spiritual journeys – journeys that may well take us in new, surprising and dynamic directions……
The tour begins at the back (west end) of the church and move in a clockwise direction around it. The numbering of the following features is reproduced on the plan of the church below.
You may like to pause to reflect on some of the artefacts featured below. They all contribute to the Christian experience of living and worshipping together.
1 The stained glass
The three windows on the north side of the nave reflect the significance of children and family relationships in the building. They were commissioned by the Walker family as thanksgiving to God for the gift of their three daughters, one of whom had been seriously ill, but whose recovery was attributed to the prayers of the congregation. The windows depict biblical narratives involving children and families: Abraham and Isaac, Moses in the bulrushes and the Nativity.
2 The text over the arch is not the original one, which had been This is his holy temple: let the earth keep silence. This was thought a discouragement to worship and changed to ‘I will be a Father unto you and ye shall be my sons and daughters’, saith the Lord Almighty.
The revised text emphasises the Christian belief that God in his love invites us to enter into a close familial relationship with him as our Heavenly Father.
3 The ceiling panels in the chancel echo some which can be seen in the Law Courts in the Strand: the initials IHS are drawn from Greek. Some say that they represent letters from the Greek word for ‘Jesus’; others that they stand for three Greek words meaning ‘Jesus, God, Saviour’, expressing key beliefs about Jesus.
The carved, wooden communion table came from India in 1845 and was later enlarged to proportions which were appropriate for the second church. The carved, stone reredos above it shows Christ in Majesty, holding the orb of the world in his hands.
4 The big east window depicts key scenes from the life of Jesus, with his crucifixion as the dominant image, providing a moving focus for worship and particularly for Christians when receiving Holy Communion. The sequence of the scenes begins at the bottom right with the Annunciation and then moves clockwise, covering Jesus’ birth, his baptism, his pre-arrest prayer in Gethsemane, his crucifixion and his resurrection.
Most of the significant Gospel narratives are brought together in this window. The inscription is incomplete, because the window was damaged by a bomb which exploded across the road from the church during World War II.
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3.16).
5 The organ, originally by William Hill and Son, has been altered considerably since the 1960s: now the console is in the south aisle, while the pipes are under the tower at the west end of the church.
6 The four stained glass windows in the south aisle echo the theme of thanksgiving for children and families. They depict:
* Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the Apostle John. When on the cross, Jesus asked each to care for the other. (John 19.26 & 27)
* Abraham and Sarah. After many years of childlessness, Sarah thanked God for the birth of a son, Isaac. (Genesis 21)
* Elkanah and Hannah. Following the long-awaited birth of their son, Samuel, Hannah dedicates him to serve in the Temple. (1 Samuel 1 and 2)
* Zechariah and Elizabeth. Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, rejoiced in the birth of their son, John, who became known as John the Baptist. (Luke 1.39 onwards)
7 The two war memorials in the south aisles are the community memorials for both World War I and II. The main Chorleywood Remembrance Sunday service is held here each year.
Greater love has no one than this: that he lays down his life for his friends (John 15.13).
8 The font, in the south west corner, was designed by George Street.