A History of St Peter's Church, Woolhampton
and a List of Rectors from 1297
A brief history
The first church was built here in the 13th Century and was valued in 1291 at £4.13s.4d. It was probably associated with the Knights Hospitallers (founded 1133), who owned the Woolhampton and Brimpton estate from 1159 to 1544. In the chancel of the old church was the following inscription round a blue slab: ‘Hic jacet Ricardus de Herclond rector hujus loei conditur cancelli’ (Here lies Richard of Herclond Rector of this parish founder of the chancel). This tomb now lies underneath the choir. Robert Vynt is listed as the first Rector in 1337.
When Henry VIII dissolved the Monasteries and the Order of St John, the Manor of Woolhampton was bought from the Crown in 1544 by William Wollascott, a Catholic. He and his descendants were Lords of the Manor from 1544 to 1757 and in 1717 Martin Wollascott purchased the advowson. The stone monument to the last of the male Wollascotts stands, surrounded by iron railings, against the brick wall opposite the church porch. The Woolhampton estate at its greatest extent included parts of Shinfield, Brimpton, Wasing, Midgham and Woolhampton.
In 1757 the estate passed by marriage to the 7th Earl of Fingal from Ireland. The Roman Catholic tradition was broken by the sale of the estate to Mr John Crewe in 1786. Their daughter married the 3rd Viscount Falmouth and his family inherited the estate in 1803 on the death of Elizabeth Crewe. During the following period, in 1836, the church was transferred from the Salisbury Diocese to the Oxford Diocese. Then in 1856 the 5th Viscount Falmouth conveyed the estate to Mr James Blyth.
At that time the church was alleged to be in a very dilapidated state and ‘not affording sufficient accommodation for the population’. James Blyth, the squire, employed the London architect John Johnson and the church was restored in its present Gothic style in 1861. Bishop Sam Wilberforce dedicated the restored church as well as the churchyard which was also extended. At James Blyth’s expense Brimpton church was also restored in 1869 and St. Matthew’s in adjacent Midgham rebuilt in its present location.
The church is built in local Berkshire style, in flint, with timbered bell cot and porch.
Nave: The Dowager Lady Falmouth donated the West End stained glass window. This is one of the largest and best in any parish church by Thomas Williment (1786- 1871) the heraldic artist to George IV and artist in stained glass to Queen Victoria. His monogram is in one corner of the window and the date 1861 in the other corner. The window is a blend of heraldic subjects connected with Viscount Falmouth’s family above, and scriptural scenes below, The Widow of Nain and The Raising of Lazarus. In the same year the musicians and singers gallery was removed.
Chancel: The panels in the ceiling over the Sanctuary are designed with five stars on each, symbolizing the faithful. The smaller lights of the East window symbolize The Trinity and The Lamb and The Dove. The central panel is of The Good Shepherd with a Royal Cloak of red, carrying a lamb in one arm and holding a crook in His right hand, a daisy at His foot. St. Peter with the keys and St. Paul with a sword stand on either side. The window is in memory of Isabella Blyth who died in 1861, just days before the delayed dedication of the restored church. On the north side there is a memorial to Reverend Boyle Glover, Rector from 1925 to 1941.
North Transept: The only remaining pre-1861 memorial is that of William Dean Junior, Rector of Woolhampton and Brimpton. William Dean Senior is said to have restored the Rectory in 1723.
South Transept: The subject of the larger window is the Crucifixion with the Birth and the Baptism on either side. The smaller window records the restoration in 1861 and the Roll of Honour names those who gave their lives in the two World Wars. A brass plate is in memory of Count Gurowski (Woolhampton House 1908-1939). The small door was the traditional entry for the squire, family and servants from the adjacent Woolhampton House (now Elstree School).
Tower: This was repaired in 1735 and more recently. The shingled spire gives an effective point to the exterior. The tenor bell is pre Reformation, having the marks of Wokingham Foundry. The second has inscribed in black letters ‘Gloria in Excelcis Deo’ W.K. 1585 (William Knight of Reading). Both these bells must have sounded the rejoicing over the defeat of the Armada. The third is a Trafalgar Year bell by Thomas Mears and Son. The date is 1805, with 1931 added when it was recast by the gift of Geoffrey Palmer, who lived at Woolhampton Court.
Churchyard: Opposite the south porch is the railed tomb of the Wollascott family. To the west of the church, in the centre of the churchyard, is the rose-pinked tomb of the Blyth family. On the other side of the path is the red-bricked tomb of Elizabeth Crewe and her granddaughter. In the far eastern corner lies the graves of Count Gurowski and family. Rectors buried here are:
Reverend Monk Mason (1876-1895)
Reverend Herbert Freeman (1901-1924)
Reverend Boyle Glover (1925-1941)
With acknowledgements to Reverend A.W.H.Moule, Mr. John Betjeman and Mr. John Trigg July 2015
|Date of Institution|
|1||Robert Vynt exchanged with John Stace||August 7th 1347|
|3||Walter de Bishopeston|
|14||John de Yatte|
|18||Richard Block - alias Helgay||1436|
|26||Edmund Bryce - alis Gybbes||1540|
|34||Stephen Rose||circa 1670|
|39||Lancelot Miles Halton||1827|
|40||Charles William Everett||1858|
|41||Robert B M Mason||1876|
|42||John Lewis Hughes||1896|
|43||Herbert F Freeman||1901|
|44||John M B Glover||1925|
|45||Cecil Francis Ayerst||1942|
|46||Arthur W H Moule||1943|
|54||Rebecca (Becky) Bevan||2010|