How old is our Church?

The building viewed from the outside gives no impression of great age. Most of the building was substantially rebuilt by Henry Woodyer and completed around 1864. Woodyer was also responsible for the design and building of St Paul’s in 1864.

The exterior impression suggests there would appear to be little time difference in the two buildings making both buildings visually about 150 years old. However records show there has been a building named All Saints on the same site since the 12th Century (somewhere between 1100~1199 AD).

Inside All Saints church there is again little immediate evidence of great age. Woodyer was responsible for the enlarging of the Chancel, the lengthening of the South aisle, the East end would eventually become the Lady Chapel, raising of the floor by 12 inches (30cm) to accommodate heating pipes and the grills over them and removal of almost all post medieval features. It was regarded as one of Woodyer’s ‘best projects’1 though also ‘one of his most heavy handed restorations.’2 He was ‘unfettered by the niceties of architectural history and the constraints of conservative restoration’.3

The historical evidence of a medieval building that does remain are the bases of the pillars which are of Norman design. Woodyer reduced the visible evidence by raising the floor level but enough is still visible to suggest the foundations are of a much older building. Many of the pillars are of chalk, a material that would have been locally available to medieval builders. Chalk can also be seen at the base of the inside frame to the South door which was obviously overlooked by Woodyer! The small door within the tower that leads up to the ringing chamber is of oak and has been dated as medieval. Records indicate All Saints was Dedicated by the Bishop of Salisbury, Hubert Walter, between 1189 ~ 1193 making the church at least 825 years old in 2018.

John Hook

Sources:
1 John Elliot, ‘Woodyer, Henry (1816-1896)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/38392, accessed 3 June 2017]
2 John Elliot and Steve Atkinson (eds), Henry Woodyer: Gentleman Architect, University of Reading 2002 p.68
3 Ibid p.69
Other sources – All Saints Church, Wokingham

Stay in touch

Sign up for our weekly newsletter for the latest updated from All Saints Wokingham