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Church of St George, Tilehurst, Reading

A Grade II Listed Building in Norcot, Reading

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.4577 / 51°27'27"N

Longitude: -1.0077 / 1°0'27"W

OS Eastings: 469040

OS Northings: 173658

OS Grid: SU690736

Mapcode National: GBR QBD.SW

Mapcode Global: VHDWS.HM4D

Entry Name: Church of St George, Tilehurst, Reading

Listing Date: 18 April 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1443796

Location: Reading, RG30

County: Reading

Electoral Ward/Division: Norcot

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Reading

Traditional County: Berkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Berkshire

Church of England Parish: Tilehurst St George

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

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Summary

The Church of St George, Tilehurst, Reading designed by Sidney Gambier Parry in 1884 and built in 1885-6; the church was both parish church and garrison church for the nearby Brock Barracks. The community hall to the S of the church is excluded from the listing.

Description

Garrison and parish church designed by Sidney Gambier Parry in 1884 and built in 1885-6. The community hall to the S of the church is not of included in the listing.

MATERIALS: local red brick with narrow banding in grey brick, with some stone dressings, and tiled roofs.

PLAN: the church has a nave with a chancel and polygonal apse, a N aisle with vestries, and a N porch to the W. The later southern additions comprise the eastern section of the incomplete S aisle, a S Lady Chapel to the E with a polygonal apse, and a small porch.

EXTERIOR: the S elevation, currently used as the main entrance, is the least satisfactory angle from which to view the church, owing to the fact that the S aisle was never completed. The bays are defined by offset buttresses and the arcade of the incomplete S aisle is expressed within the external brick wall by red and grey brick headers. In the western bay is a plain pointed-arched entrance, whilst the central two bays have graduated triple lancets. The 1936 eastern bay of the S aisle, together with the S chapel and porch, form a distinct composition; the aisle has triple lancets of equal height, with graduated triple lancets to the gabled chapel, and the porch has a flat roof. The W wall of the partial aisle is blind. The remaining area of the intended S aisle is defined by a low brick wall* with ironwork, thought to date from the mid-to-late C20; this is not of special interest. The brickwork to this section has grey banding, and there is grey brick to the window heads; these bays are also defined by offset buttresses. The gabled N porch has a pointed-arched doorway beneath a stone hoodmould, with a recessed vesica above; there is a stone cross to the apex of the gable. The N elevation has pilasters separating the groups of windows; the lancet windows to this elevation are arranged in pairs, with a triplet below a gable to the E. There is an unbroken string course of moulded brick at cill level, and a roll moulding following the window arches. Grey brick banding to this elevation continues around the chancel apse, the apsidal end of the Lady Chapel, and the W elevation. The apse has tall single lancets to each face, here defined by a stone string course and roll moulding. The W end has a group of four stepped lancets with a crowning oculus, beneath three stone hood moulds. The W elevation is further enlivened by stone dressings marking the eaves and apex of the roof. Rising over the E end of the nave is a gabled bellcote, banded with stone. To the N of the apse are the stairs to the cellar, which contains the boiler.

INTERIOR: the four-bay nave has an aisle to the N, the arcade having wide pointed red and grey brick arches which spring from square stone capitals on plain circular shafts of red sandstone. A corresponding arcade to the S frames the windows and doorway in place of the incomplete aisle. The windows of the N aisle have deeply splayed jambs. The lofty nave roof is of hammerbeam construction. The walls of the church are of bare red brick, though this was largely painted white in the 1970s. The church floor is of timber parquet, with encaustic tiles in the chancel and sanctuary. The chancel is demarcated by a tall chancel arch and low stone walls with a Gothic wrought-iron screen, given in 1889; the sanctuary is protected by a timber rail with open trefoil-headed panels. There is a cinquefoil arch to the sedilia, and a trefoil to the piscine. The tall lancets in the apse have deeply splayed jambs, and are linked by a roll moulding. The fine stained glass was erected by members of the congregation in 1896. The carved timber reredos is gilded, with a Crucifixion and saints in niches, and crosses of St George above. The organ, to the N of the chancel, is circa 1890 by Gray and Davison. The vestries are divided from the N aisle by sliding timber doors with Gothic panelling, given circa 1903. The vestries have barrel ceilings, and original timber cupboards together with other furnishings. The W windows depict 'Faith', 'Hope', 'Charity' and 'Purity', with Christ above in the oculus. Grouped at the W end of the church is a collection of war memorials of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, including those commemorating the South African Campaign of 1899-1902, the Crimean War with Russia of 1854-1856, plaques commemorating individuals, and the Regimental colours. A First World War dedication to those who lost their lives is amongst other memorials on the N wall. Stained glass memorial windows to the N wall depict characters including St Alban, St George, and King Alfred (by A L Moore). The hexagonal Jacobean pulpit, brought from the Church of St Andrew, Sonning, stands on a Victorian base. The oak choir stalls have trefoil tracery to the fronts, and poppyhead finials. The nave originally had chairs rather than pews; these were replaced post 2010. The octagonal sandstone font, carved with Celtic cross medallions, has been moved from its original position at the NW corner of the church, to the centre of the W end.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURE

The community hall* standing to the S of the church is not of special interest.

*Pursuant to s.1(5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘The Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historical interest.

History

The Church of St George was designed by Sidney Gambier Parry in 1884 and built in 1885-6. The funds came in part from the Royal Berkshire Regiment, whose garrison church it became for a number of years; the church still has links with the Royal Berkshire Regiment’s successor, 7 Rifles. The Royal Berkshire Regiment's Depot, Brock Barracks, built in 1877-81, is some 200m to the E of the church.

Contemporary maps illustrate an urban expansion in the region of the barracks from the late C19. This reflects a change in military thinking at that time, introduced by the Liberal Secretary of State for War Edward Cardwell, whose thoroughgoing modernisation of the army between 1870 and 1881 became known as the ‘Cardwell reforms’. Having observed chronic under-recruitment in the army, Cardwell, in 1872, initiated the Military Localisation Bill which provided for a redistribution of regiments in Britain and Ireland to depots situated in areas populous enough to sustain a brigade, encouraging the establishment of local connections and assisting recruitment. Thus it was that Brock Barracks was constructed in 1877-81 to house the 1st and 2nd Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

St George’s was built both to serve the western expansion of Reading, and to meet the needs of the troops; the new building replaced a temporary iron church erected in 1880. The new church was consecrated in stages, reflecting its gradual expansion: the nave, N aisle, N porch and vestries were consecrated in 1886; the chancel in 1893. In 1936, a S chapel, partial S aisle and S porch, added by George Ridley Phillips, were consecrated. The S aisle of the church was never completed, but major repairs and maintenance work were carried out between 1955 and 1958 by George William Judd.

Sidney Gambier Parry (1859-1948), was the son of Thomas Gambier Parry, an artist and inventor, and the half-brother of the composer Sir Hubert Parry. During his career he undertook both ecclesiastical and domestic work, frequently in his native Gloucestershire: his ecclesiastical works include the Church of All Saints, Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire (1886-8, Grade II), and the Church of St Peter, Badgeworth, Gloucestershire (1888, Grade II), whilst notable church restorations include the Church of St Michael, Churcham, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire (1886, Grade I). He collaborated in rebuilding work at St John the Evangelist, Coleford, Gloucestershire, (restored 1885, Grade II) and St Mary, Cowbit, Lincolnshire (restored 1882, Grade I). He designed the altar frontal for Salisbury Cathedral and the alabaster work in the sanctuary of St Mary's Bathwick, Bath. Parry was also commissioned for designs for the roof decoration in the chancel at the Church of St Mary, Bayford, Hertfordshire (1890, Grade II*), and in 1913 built an organ case and loft for St Mary's, Bourne Street, London. His domestic work included Iveson Manor, Ampney St Peter, Gloucestershire (1908, Grade II) and the extension and remodelling of the late C18 or early C19 Pytte House 1-6, Clyst St George, Devon (Grade II).

The community hall, to the S of the church, is thought to have its origins in the 1880 iron church, though it has been very much altered and extended. It was, at least until 1911, known as the Sunday School. This building is not of special interest and is therefore excluded from the listing.

Reasons for Listing

The Church of St George, Tilehurst, Reading, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: for its external massing and austere but effective detailing;
* Historical interest: as garrison church for the Royal Berkshire Regiment, the building has strong links with the nearby Brock Barracks, the best surviving example of a localisation depot built as a result of Cardwell reforms; St George’s is thought to be a rare example of a church associated with the reforms;
* Internal fittings: the church retains a set of good late-C19 and early-C20 fittings, reflecting its development over that time, including the wrought-iron chancel screen, oak choir stalls, vestry screen and stained glass;
* Commemorative interest: for the memorials of the Royal Berkshire Regiment which attest to the impact of world events on the community;
* Group value: with the buildings at Brock Barracks, listed at Grade II.

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