Visiting the former Broad Street Independent Chapel, Reading, England: 1892 ornate frontage and octagonal turret

Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
The former Broad Street Independent Chapel, Reading
The former Broad Street Independent Chapel, Reading | Source
Map location of Berkshire, United Kingdom
Map location of Berkshire, United Kingdom | Source

Changing fortunes of a building and former churchgoers

The existing frontage of this four-storey, former Chapel building in Reading, England, dates from 1892, although its origins go back much further.

Prominent features of Broad Street Independent Chapel, executed in a pleasing combination of red brick and stone, include a tower above the entrance archway, which has an octagonal turret; to pedestrians standing close to the archway, the turret is partly obscured by a large, stone gable. Slate roofing is at a particularly pronounced angle on the turret. A large ornate entrance archway has inscriptions referring to the congregation's antecedents.

Reference on the inscription is made to 1662 — a date which caught my attention, as I walked past — when, across England, many ministers of a Protestant outlook were ejected from the Church of England: an event sometimes known as the Great Ejection; after this date, Protestant churches not connected with the Church of England tended to be known as Nonconformist, and their adherents suffered from certain civic disabilities. The frontage of this building gives the idea of well established, 19th century churchgoers in a prosperous town; but it is hard to reflect upon the fact that that in previous centuries Nonconformists were to some extent a despised minority, in some measure persecuted by the state for their beliefs.

Broad Street, in Reading, Berkshire, England, has been pedestrianized for the past few decades, and is a busy thoroughfare for shoppers. One of the businesses occupying the former Chapel Building is a bookstore named Waterstone's; the former chapel gallery has been refurbished into a shelving area for books (1). Some church buildings, present or former, stand out because of their location; others such as the former Broad Street Independent Chapel, seem to blend into their background and certainly it is the case that the development of the property has been carried out successfully. But the corollary of this is also that the average shopper, walking along the pedestrianized Broad Street is probably unlikely to become aware of the church origins of this heritage property.

October, 6, 2012

Note

(1) In a window, a stained glass copy of Burne-Jone's Light of the World has been preserved (the original is in the Chapel of Keble College, Oxford).

Also worth seeing

In Reading itself, there are many other examples of fine architecture, including church buildings such as St Lawrence-in-Reading, once the chapel of the ruined Reading Abbey; the Town Hall and Reading University's Foxhill House, are by architect Alfred Waterhouse; the University's Great Hall, Wantage Hall and St Patrick's Hall are of note.

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How to get there

United Airlines flies from New York Newark Airport to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Distance from Heathrow Airport to Reading is 49 kilometres. A regular bus link exists between Heathrow Airport and Reading. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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Comments 2 comments

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas

Of all the arts, I think architecture is my favorite because it affects everyone. Everyone can appreciate it, or not, but one need not go to a museum or an exhibit in order to view or enjoy it. It's available to the masses in most cases.

Voted you up, interesting, and will share.


MJFenn profile image

MJFenn 4 years ago Author

Au fait: Yes, architectural heritage is very absorbing, and it's interesting how it ties in with a place's history, also. Thank-you for your comment.

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