St Mary’s Church.
We had gone into Reading today. Parking in Castle Street, we walked past St Mary’s Church. We have walked past it several times, but today, it was open.
Naturally, I could not resist a look inside. Town and City centre churches struggle to survive nowadays. When many of them were built, they were in heavily residential areas. Now, the buildings are shops and offices. The people have moved out.
However, this one is still going. It was built in 1798 on the site of the former County Gaol, where John Bunyan had reputedly been imprisoned. Membership consisted of a large part of the congregation of St Giles-in-Reading, disillusioned by their new vicar.
In 1840, a portico, with six Corinthian columns, was added as a façade to the existing building. It was designed by Henry and Nathaniel Briant, local architects who had designed the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Members of St Mary’s Church wanted their building to have a similar stature. The chancel, as seen in this picture, was added at the same time to give the chapel a more Anglican appearance.
In the mid 19th century, the organ was moved from the gallery to its current position (front left in the photograph), and a new pulpit erected. In the 1970s, in common with many churches, a platform was extended in front of the chancel, and the Lord’s Table moved forwards.
The chandeliers are actually for the original gas lighting. This was one of the first buildings in Reading so equipped. Similarly, it was one of the first to move to electric lighting, and the original fitting are still in use!
St Mary’s Church is still in use, despite many attempts to close and demolish it – particularly in the 1960s. It is one of the few churches in the country to still use the 1662 Book of Common Prayer for all regular services, and to have a Calvinistic preaching ministry. The building is now Grade II* listed.
I would have preferred to take the photograph from the balcony but, sadly, this is closed to the public. However, I am pleased with the shot I have got. It is difficult taking a photograph in a dark building against the light. I have therefore given it some HDR treatment, to enhance the overall appearance – lighten the pew boxes (note the original doors are still in place), and darken down the light from the windows, without losing any of the brightness of the image.
- Taken: 6 Apr 2017
- Camera: Canon 5D MkIII
- Lens: Canon EF 24-70mm 1:2.8 L II USM
- Focal Length 24mm
- 1/60 Sec
- ISO 400