St Lawrence's Church is a Grade I listed church that sits on top of West Wycombe Hill in a prominent position overlooking the West Wycombe Road, and surrounding villages. The top of the tower is the highest point in the Southern Chilterns and on a clear day it is possible to see West London. The church was gradually rebuilt in its current form by Sir Francis Dashwood, 1st Baronet and Baron Le Despenser. In the 1750s the medieval west tower was raised to make it an eye-catcher from the West Wycombe Estate, West Wycombe House and also from the West Wycombe road. It was topped by a great golden ball, possibly inspired by the Dogana, Venice.
The golden ball can be seen for miles around and is a recognised symbol of West Wycombe village. It is made from a wooden frame covered in gold leaf, 8 feet in diameter, and contains seating for up to six people. It is reputed to be a meeting place for the Hellfire Club and was described by the author John Wilkes as “the best globe tavern I was ever in.”
St Lawrence Church has been used as a backdrop and as part of important scenes in various popular TV shows and films such as Downton Abbey and in the 2016 film Bridget Jones's Baby.
Recently public access to the tower was closed due to safety concerns. From our initial inspection it is clear the structure is suffering from weather ingress and timber deterioration. We are organising timber investigation work but first we need to work out a method of safe access into the golden ball!
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