St John Baptist, Newbury and St George’s, Wash Common, Berks


Many towns like Newbury built new churches during the 19th c, to cope with their expansion. The original church of St John (1860), designed by William Butterfield, the great Tractarian architect, was destroyed by a German bomb in 1943. In its place, S.E. Dykes-Bower provided a striking brick building with a small gabled bell tower (1957). His use of patterns and bands in the brickwork is a throwback, lacking only bands of white stone to imitate Butterfield’s ‘streaky bacon’ style. A statue of the patron saint faces you as you pass through the S door. Altars for Requiems and Children’s Masses are at the W end of the nave seating (unlike the Chiidrens’ Corners once fashionable, the latter is used).

Between the wars, a daughter church in the Italian Renaissance style was erected on the Andover road, a powerful building with detached campanile by EC. Eden, better known for his church furnishings. With its whitened walls, St George’s stands like some colonial mission, the year of its erection (1933) proclaimed on its downpipes. Approach from the road and be aware of the black cross bearing the Instruments of the Passion on the E wall. Inside, all is again whiteness and space, the slender nave of 1964-5 leading the eye to the high altar, whose baldacchino bears

Aquinas’s words ‘Adoro Te Devote Latens Deitas’. Fine furnishings include reredoses by Dykes-Bower and John Hayward, as well as Hayward’s crowning W window of St George and the Dragon.

We now appreciate the best of Victorian architecture. In their turn, the finest twentieth century churches will soon have their day, and Newbury has the good fortune to have two of these.

Pray that God may grant us some part of the vision of St John and of the courage of St George as we face the challenges of daily life.

Simon Cotton