History of Corpus Christi

The first church at Tring was built by Fr Henry Hardy, an Anglican convert and descendent of Captain Hardy of Trafalgar fame, who also built churches at Berkhamsted, Boxmoor and Rickmansworth (qv). Fr Hardy’s church was a small gabled brick structure with a bell turret over the entrance. According to a local newspaper account quoted in the parish history, it was built by a Mr C. Green of Boxmoor (the general form of the building, with the ridge lowered to accommodate the belfry, bears some resemblance to Fr Hardy’s earlier church at Boxmoor).

Although modestly augmented over the years, the 1912 church was increasingly inadequate for the growing parish, and plans were advanced for its substantial enlargement as early as the 1960s. The  tower and side aisle were added from designs by George Mathers in the 1960s (information from Chris Fanning). The Diocesan Property Services archive has copies of drawings for two schemes for major enlargement prepared by Mathers in 1992 – one for a rectangular and a second for an octagonal addition, each bolted onto the old church, which would be retained as a separate nave or day chapel. However, these schemes came to nothing, and it was not until 1995 that Anthony Delarue was appointed and real progress made towards the building of a new church. His scheme retained the tower and outer walls, or at least the footprint, of the old church except on the west side, which was opened up to a new aisled nave (on the site of the old presbytery). The main axis was thus turned around by 180 degrees, with the former sanctuary becoming a baptistery and Lady Chapel, and the tabernacle placed in a recess in the former aisle. The first Mass was celebrated in the new church on 11 November 1999 and the building was consecrated by Archbishop Murphy O’Connor on 16 February 2001. The design won a craftsmanship award from the Brick Development Association. 

In 2012 a new parish office was added alongside the sacristy, designed to be in keeping with Delarue’s work (architects Kyle Smart Associates of Dunstable).

The church is now orientated roughly north-south, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was at the east end.

The church was built in 1998-99, and incorporates some of the fabric and form of the predecessor church of 1912. The architect was Anthony Delarue and the builder E. W. Rayment & Co. Ltd. The church is built of red brick, with sparing use of stone dressings, and with a tile roof; its stylistic fusion of Queen Anne and Arts and Crafts elements is reminiscent of the churches of Sir Edwin Lutyens, e.g. Knebworth (1914-15). In the architect’s account (Church Building, 2000), the ‘design brings together several traditions of brick construction – the Classical Roman basilica, the English Renaissance and local rural tradition’. The Luton grey bricks and red tiles from the former presbytery on the site of the nave were used in the new construction, supplemented by matching bricks from the Dunton Brick Company (near Berkhamsted) and hand-made red bricks from the Sussex Brick Company. New tiles came from the Chelwood Brick Company, Cheadle. On plan the church consists of an aisled nave with a western narthex, from which a sacristy gives off to the south, all entirely new work; and a sanctuary with transepts formed in the old church space, the tabernacle and flanking arched recesses formed within the former aisle. A square lantern tower with pyramidal roof surmounted by an iron cross is placed over the new sanctuary. Incorporated in the gable of the north transept on the street elevation is a square brick tower with pyramidal tile roof, retained from the old church. There are two entrances on the street elevation, the main one at the west end, and a secondary entrance in the north transept. Between these, the bay divisions in the aisle walls are marked by banded brick and stone pilasters, those on either side of the main entrance with ball finials on the parapet. Each bay has a round-arched window with brick surround and stone sill. On the south (garden) front, the apse of the baptistery/Lady chapel has been rebuilt in matching brick and has small round-arched windows. 

The progress from narthex to sanctuary is a symbolic progress from relative gloom to light. The narthex is within a gallery occupying the western bay of the nave, its front towards the nave carried on two slender Tuscan Doric columns, with the words of the Lauda Sion (the sequence for the feast of Corpus Christi) inscribed on the entablature.  Above this, the gallery is lit by a lunette window in the western gable. The nave and aisles have a black and red tiled floor. The narrow aisles are primarily for circulation, but include additional seating. The windows in the aisles have plain glass, awaiting stained glass as and when donors permit. The three-bay nave arcades are of brick, divided by pilasters, and similar pilastered arcades delineate the east wall of the sanctuary. Above the nave is an open timber roof with paired collar purlin trusses and horizontal boarding between.  Plastered segmental arches frame the crossing, in which is placed the sanctuary, and over which the lantern acts as a ciborium or canopy (the painted plaster is intended in due course to receive mural or mosaic decoration). The lantern also has an open timber roof, with king and queen posts and diagonal braces. The windows in the lantern have pale coloured glass of various tints.  To the south, a round arch separates the aisle from the apsidal Lady Chapel/baptistery, which has a timber roof.

The marble altar is placed centrally under the lantern and came from the old church; it was erected as a memorial to the parish dead of the First World War. The black, brown and cream tiled floor of the sanctuary has been carpeted. The other sanctuary furnishings are of English oak, the lectern made by Terence Hart Dyke. Over the sanctuary hangs a suspended painted wooden crucifix, acquired by Canon Berry from a French monastery. The tabernacle is placed within an arched recess behind the sanctuary, formed within the space of the former aisle. It is placed on a columnar pedestal, with hangings behind, a votive crown over and an amber lantern above giving golden light. The arches on either side have iron grilles, made by Tim Colman of Clerkenwell, the design based on ironwork in the French pilgrimage church at Conques.   

(from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales)

Parish Priests

Fr Henry Hardy (1910-18)

Fr Francis Wynch (1919-20)

Fr Bernard Hyde (1920-21)

Fr Percy Clune (1921-23)

Fr William Neville (1923-39)

Fr Norman Fergusson (1939-49)

Fr Ralph Gardner (1949-59)

Fr Arthur Mintern (1959-65)

Fr Calum MacLean (1965-82)

Mgr Denis McGuinness (1982-93)

Fr Anthony Potter (1993-2003)

Canon Desmond Sheehan (2003-04)

Canon Vincent Berry (2006-17)

Fr David Burke (2017-21)

Fr Sean Thornton (2021-)