Golden Ball, St Lawrence Church

Nominated by: Councillor Patrick Hogan

The Golden Ball on St Lawrence Church, West Wycombe was created during the Age of Enlightenment by Sir Francis Dashwood.  A far-sighted landmark it recalls the late Renaissance period Custom House in Venice. The large wooden ball on top of its tower makes a classical counterpoint to the philanthropic straight road created from High Wycombe.

The Church was originally built in the 14th century and then dramatically changed in 1763. The tower was raised to make it more visible from afar, and it was crowned with the wooden golden ball that was reputed to be a meeting place for the Hellfire Club.  The golden ball could seat 6-10 people, and was described by the author John Wilkes as “the best globe tavern I was ever in”. The ball hosted visitors of the Hellfire Club, such as, Benjamin Franklin, underlining the far reaching ‘global’ influence from this Buckinghamshire ‘seat’.

The interior of the Church is equally magnificent.  The design of the nave is said to have been derived from Robert Wood’s prints of the ancient Temple of the Sun in Palmyra.  It has five arched windows of timber on each side, and is lined with Corinthian columns supporting further decorations. The painted ceiling is by Giovanni Borgnis, and there is spectacular Rococo plasterwork, on the ceiling, frieze and walls.

There are eight bells in the tower, which is 80 metres high with over 100 steps taking you to the summit.

The Golden Ball of St Lawrence Church was nominated by Councillor Patrick Hogan, Buckinghamshire Council Cabinet Member for Culture.