Building the Parish Church

It is recorded that St Augustine of Canterbury built his original Christian monastery of Christ Church on an old Roman basilica.  Originally, a basilica was a King’s palace, but to the Romans, it became a hall in which justice was administered, a hall with a nave, aisles and surrounding galleries, and a semi-circular apse at one end.  Roman built basilicas were later adapted for use as Christian Churches.

The plans for St Augustine’s were drawn up by architect W A H Masters in typical basilica style.  The church is one of the very few churches built in this style in the south west of England.

The nave consists of six wide bays plus half a bay at the west end of the building.  The most western bay is now taken up by the Parish Room, and the most Eastern forms the choir.  The nave arches are rounded and are typical of Romanesque architecture.  Close study of the original design shows that the outer nave walls were intended to be a temporary construction, and the Stonehouse faced brickwork is not so thick where it was hoped later extensions would be added.  Above each bay is the clerestory – four bays (three on the south side) have triple windows in the Romanesque style, while two are solid brick wall where the transepts were intended to be.

Modified design

The double-arch of the final bay is where the choir is situated – surrounded by aisles which were once used for processions around the church.  That on the south side is blocked by the new organ console.  The choir is surrounded by a brick and stone screen, with iron railings situated on top.  The pulpit and lectern are an integral part of the design.  This area of the church is used when there are smaller congregations, the new candlesticks installed in 2009 in memory of Derek Holmes adding atmosphere to those occasions.

At the far east end is the apse – polygonal on the outside, but semi-circular inside.  The symbols in the mosaic sanctuary flooring left front of the main altar are of a basket of bread and fish, which represent eternal life and Christianity.  Between the Greek signs for Alpha (beginning) and Omega (end) are seven golden candlesticks, which stand for the seven churches of Asia, and on the right are grapes, representing the fruit of the vine.  The symbols on the lectern and pulpit remind us that Jesus Christ conquers through the cross.

The parts of the layout in black were built, those in grey were never completed

To the south of the apse, there is a wooden processional cross was made and presented by the personnel of the GWR “AM” shop to the church on 4th May 1936.  This was dedicated “To the Glory of God and in memory of George Frederick West”.  Mr West was the father of dedicated organist Clayton West and his sister, assistant organist, Mrs Irene Hayward (then West), both of whom, like their father, served St Augustine’s faithfully for many years.

The chapel and large tower in the architect’s original design were never built, but the church has a small bell tower which originally held two small bells with a combined weight of under three hundredweight.  These were rung individually, the lower toned bell reminded people that there would soon be a service, and the higher toned bell was rung nearer the service time.  In 1956, these were removed and single bell weighing four hundredweight was installed in memory of Mr and Mrs George F West.

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