Last Autumn Margaret and I were invited to St Peter’s Rectory to see a collection of 90-plus old documents relating to the time when St Barnabas was a part of the Caversham parish. Most are plans and letters from the time the present church was built. Continuing storage at St Peter’s would be unsatisfactory and they now have a permanent home at the Berkshire County Records office in Reading. This means that proper storage and conservation, where necessary, is ensured. Eventually, the public will be able to ask to study the documents there.
All the items have been photographed so that St Barnabas folk can see them, and some of the more interesting pictures will be put on display. A selection will also be put on the church website for wider circulation.
The oldest item was a fine pre-1899 photograph of the interior of Emmer Green Parochial school as arranged for services. More information on the school can be found in the Emmer Green Residents’ Association book. “Emmer Green, Past and Present”. The school has also been variously known as Emmer Green National School, Emmer Green Church of England School and St Barnabas School. It is not known for certain whether the school was used for adult worship in the years before the building of the first St Barnabas Church in 1897 (now the Church Hall).
Soon after this, St Barnabas started to have a mention, along with St John’s, Lower Caversham, in the Caversham Parish Magazine of the time, several examples of which were among the documents. The front cover of the January 1910 edition is illustrated on the front of the Easter Newsletter. The price of one old penny (rather less than our decimal halfpenny) is probably quite significant for the likely wages of the time. The printer, Blackwell and Gutch, does not appear to have any connection with the modern Blackwell’s bookshop.
Also included were some beautiful hand-drawn and coloured plans of proposals for the present St Barnabas Church, of which the above is a good example. A close inspection of these plans shows some minor differences from the design finally agreed.
For more information about the plans that we found, see Plans for the Current Church 1924 – 1929.