In the early 1920’s, fund raising for a permanent building was kick-started by a bequest of £1,000 from a Mrs Saunders, with a stipulation that building should begin no later than 1924. Accordingly, the foundation stone was laid in 1924 by Mr C E Keyser. The architect for the building was Mr J H Willett who resided at “Greencroft” in St Barnabas Rd.
Building proceeded slowly over the following years, presumably due to the need to raise the remainder of the building cost of £2,200. Parts of the building were dedicated separately as they became available – the nave and a temporary sanctuary in June 1925; the West window in September 1925. The final consecration was in June 1929.
The First Plan (Each image can be enlarged by clicking on it)
It is thought that three designs were proposed, although it is not clear whether these were by one architect or more. Among the relics we have two different plans, both being by the same architect, Mr J H Willett.
The first plan is dated June 1923 and is basically the shape and size of the building we know. The main exceptions are the sanctuary, which has been given a rounded outline with three smaller windows, and the North transept which is trapezoidal rather than rectangular. This plan has £1,750 lightly pencilled on it, and this may have been the estimated price in 1923/4.
As well as the plan, we also have an outline elevation of the East end of the church which shows how different the sanctuary would have looked from the outside. Internally, the organ is shown in the South transept, and the choir pews are in the chancel. The vestry in the North transept appears to be for both clergy and choristers.
The Second Plan
This plan, dated April 1924, is believed to be the one that was formalised in early 1929 as the “extended” plan, and is very probably the plan used for the present building. In this design the sanctuary and the North transept have both been given their present rectangular outlines, and this is what constitutes the “extension”. (Note that these changes are hinted at in pencil on the earlier plan.)
The internal arrangements are as before, and there is no indication of using the North transept for the organ. Some other aspects of the organ are considered later.
Sections and Elevations
As well as the plan, we can show some of the drawings of the detail of the proposed building from different perspectives. We must bear in mind that all of these plans would have been hand-drawn and often hand-coloured, and are without recourse to any “multiple-copy” facility. As such, the originals, which are now in the Berkshire Records Office in Reading, are works of art.
Finalisation and Extension of the Second Plan
The last important plan we have is labelled “Extension of East End” and is dated January 1929. It shows essentially the same view of the chancel, transepts and sanctuary.
Now we can see changes in the internal arrangements. The South transept has become the clergy vestry and the North transept is the choir vestry. The position of an organ in the choir vestry is indicated, but is not a representation of the actual organ.
In particular, the organist seems to be seated within the chancel arch. With about six months to go to the completion date, the organ was probably still being built and its final dimensions may have been un-known. The close fit of the largest wooden pipes on the organ into the apex of the roof of the vestry above them can be seen today, and is a good indication that the organ was tailor made for us. When coupled with some other details we already know of, this may also be an indication that the organ is a rebuilt instrument.
However, the sketch plan of the site shows that the nave is already built, and confirms that the plan itself represents what will actually be built. It also has the approval hand-stamp from the Council.
Consecration of the New Church Building 29th June 1929
The Consecration was recorded in the Reading Chronicle on the following Friday, in two photographs and a whole column report. Due to age, both of these are fragile, and they were only minimally smoothed for photography. One photograph shows the pristine church, looking remarkably like it does today. However, its environs are much less overgrown. The other shows Bishop Hook and the Bishop of Oxford, accompanied by the churchwardens, on their way from the old church to the front door of the new church, where they will seek entry.