The pictures show the exterior before and after the fire and restoration –
the “before” image being from a postcard sent to Paris in 1906. The interior is
The church was almost completely destroyed by a fire on 1 June 1914, which
was suspected as arson. The rebuilding commenced soon after, despite the First
World War, and the new building design by Fellowes Prynne incorporated as much
as possible of the old, either in what remained, or in the essence of what was
previously there. Indeed, Fellowes Prynne had been briefed to retain as much of
the character and feeling of the old church as he could.
The nave roof shows an example of Fellowes Prynne’s abandoning his usual
practice of placing a barrel roof to cover the roof trusses. Here the roof
structure can be seen. He has, however, put a barrel roof in the chancel and
sanctuary, where previously there had been an open, rather cumbersome-looking
series of tie beams and verticals which doubtless detracted from the beauty of
the east window.
A particular point to note, concerning the architect’s approach to
conservation of older features, is that fragments of Norman arches were
uncovered during the rebuilding. Fellowes Prynne not only made a point of
leaving them exposed, but he echoed the round arch shape at the entrance to the
north transept. His plans for a baptistery were never used.
Externally, the main features of the old building were preserved, although
comparisons between a postcard sent in 1906, and a recent photograph show that
there are differences in the chancel and sanctuary windows, and that the roof
level of the new chancel is higher (though not to the level of the nave).
The following information on the lych gate was provided by John Pritchard, to
whom I am most grateful.
According to faculty and visitation records, the lych gate was built in 1913, to
a design by AY Nutt. A photograph in the Reading Borough Library collection of
an open-air service held on the first Sunday after the fire shows very clearly
the burnt-out building and the lych-gate. It can be viewed