North Downs Pastoral Area

Roman Catholic Churches in

Wantage, Faringdon, Lambourn & Hungerford


Caroline Ness and Chris Carlon file a report on developments

Churches rarely fall off the back of a lorry, but Our Lady of Lourdes in Hungerford did just that in the summer of 1939! The small Catholic community had the opportunity to acquire, free of charge, a pre-fabricated building which was delivered and re-constructed between July and September on a site adjacent to the town centre. It was consecrated and dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes by Bishop Cotter of  Portsmouth on Sunday 26th November 1939.

The church today is largely as it was originally constructed, with the addition of a hall and entrance area built in the 1970's. It has been the focus of the Catholic community in Hungerford for over 70 years and has a strong emotional attachment for many people, despite being a temporary structure still with its original seats.

In 2006 the parish began seriously to consider building a new church to serve the community into the foreseeable future. The current site, the remaining part of the original plot, was shared with some well-kept and productive allotments until 2009. The plan is to sell this land for housing and construct a new church on the site from the money raised.

There is overwhelming support from the parish and much excitement at the prospect of finally replacing our greatly loved, but slowly deteriorating, temporary church. With diocesan support a parish building committee was established, an initial specification was drafted and the first tentative steps taken to start the process. This happened soon after the pastoral areas were re-defined and Hungerford, which is linked as a parish to Lambourn, moved into the North Downs Pastoral Area. We welcomed Canon Peter

Turbitt from Wantage as our parish Priest and he brought with him huge support, enthusiasm and encouragement.

The appointment of an architect galvanized the process and enthusiasm grew as the feasibility was evaluated, plans drawn up and the project took shape. The chosen architects, JBKS Ltd of Thames, specialise in designing churches and have won awards for their work, so the initial designs for the site, both new housing and a church, were eagerly awaited.

After many meetings with the building committee, and following discussions within the parish and diocese, a final external design was agreed. Subsequent work costed the church and housing, while updated valuations of the land and estimated selling prices for the properties gave more accurate and realistic financial constraints and objectives. Subsequent approval to proceed to the next stage from the Diocesan Finance and Property Committee opened the door for the planning application.

By early 2009 we had a proposal for the site and a stunning design, not only for a beautiful new church but also fourteen properties arranged in a fan shaped crescent around two sides of the site and the church. These plans received very favorable

and admiring comments, not only for the innovative site layout, but also the uplifting development that links the church and houses in architectural style and orientation.

The design and sustainability of the proposed buildings, site access and impact traffic movements and parking were the subjects of lengthy, but successful discussions with the local  Planning Officer. On a very wet evening in Newbury in September 2009 a large group of parishioners watched as the Berkshire Planning Committee evaluated and unanimously approved the plans at first submission.

A huge amount of effort over nearly four years by the parish, the architect and our diocesan advisors and consultants had been successful. Obtaining planning permission was a great tribute to many people, not least the parishioners who had raised many tens of thousands of pounds to get the project to this stage.

There is still more to do of course, but the fund raising through pledges, donations, pastoral area and parish activities has been wonderful and we are well on target to attain our funding objectives. The details of the interior design and tender process to secure a developer lie ahead, but we are confident of success and there is no shortage of prayers and enthusiasm.

It is not very often that a church is built; the process is long and involved, but there is no finer way of demonstrating strength of faith and for uniting a parish community.

It will be said indeed when a lorry finally removes the church that has served the Catholic community in Hungerford so well and for so long. But what will rise in its place, hopefully within the next three years, will be a wonderful monument to Our Lady of Lourdes and the Catholic community in Hungerford

If you would like to contribute to this project please send your prayers to Our Lady and your financial support to the parish.