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June 2011
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front right A history of The Lee
Part 6: The ‘new’ St John the Baptist Church cont’d...

By Mike Senior

In the autumn of 1909, a new Vicar was installed, the Revd Reginald Palmer, and the committee to oversee the development of the Church was reconstituted.

Extensive developments
At this time the Lord of the Manor was Mr Arthur Lasenby Liberty who had already done much to help the church. He had given ground to enlarge the churchyard, contributed to the restoration of the Old Church, re-roofed the New Church and had given land for a new vicarage. Arthur Liberty now took a leading role in the development of the New Church and in order to prevent delay he underwrote the whole of the rebuilding cost. For its part the Committee undertook to collect a sum to cover the cost of the transepts and the re-flooring of the nave. The result was that “by voluntary effort on the part of all classes in the community, including even the children of the Sunday School, the needed sum of £550 for this portion of the work was raised”. Almost £3,000 was needed to pay for the remainder of the project and that was donated by Mr and Mrs Liberty.
baptistry
The work on the church began in September 1910 and it was extensive. The changes and additions included:
  • the extension and re-roofing of the chancel
  • the addition of two transepts
  • a new baptistery
  • a new vestry
  • a chamber for a ‘heating furnace’ together with new pipes and radiators
  • east and west stained glass windows
  • carved oak furniture for the choir and altar areas
  • wrought metal candelabras and gas fittings
  • wrought metal fittings on the doors and pulpit.
The decorative work was carried out by Messrs. Liberty of London.

stone During the re-building work the original foundation stone was moved and positioned “between the old and the new work”. This took place on 14th October 1910 and on the same occasion a tin box was placed under the foundation stone. In the tin box were deposited a copy of The Times for that date, a coin (believed to be a penny) and a newly-minted 1910 half-crown piece.

The dedication of the enlarged church took place on 6th May 1911. The service was led by the Bishop of Oxford and there was “a very full attendance of residents in the district”.

The Church today
The present church is very much as it was in 1911. However certain items have been donated over the years. The organ, which originated in Glasgow, was given by Lady Liberty in remembrance of Sir Arthur Liberty, who died in 1917. After the First World War the Revd Constantine Phipps provided a silver altar cross and two silver candle sticks, in memory of his two sons who were killed in the War. Sadly both the candlesticks were stolen in 1973. The processional cross is in memory of Mrs Constantine Phipps.

In more recent times the gas lighting became electric and the coal-fired furnace is now oil-fired. The pine pews have been refurbished to match the oak furniture of the choir and altar areas.

The words written in 1911, at the time of the enlargement of the church, still hold true today. The work “has transformed our little village church into one of the most dignified and beautiful sanctuaries in the county”.

Principal Sources:
1.  The Doings in the Parish During Coronation Year 1911. A. L. Liberty

Addendum: In Part 3 we listed some of the significant 16th and 17th century buildings still remaining in parish. We were remiss not to mention Hawthorn Barn (formerly Hawthorn Farm and, before that, Hawthorn Grange).

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