Visiting Providence Chapel, Reading, England: Gothic Arching at a Building Dating From 1859
Solidity and permanence
One of the many church buildings of interest in Reading, Berkshire, is Providence Chapel. This mainly brick, Victorian building with strongly Gothic elements dates from 1859. Several pointed, stone arched windows on the Oxford Road frontage combine with substantial buttressing to give the edifice strong sense of solidity and permanence.
Interestingly, even the name of the building and its date — Providence Chapel 1859 — are carved in to stone arched in a way which follows the contours of the arching of the main doorway. One thus gets a sense of just how popular the Gothic arch was in the mid-19th century.
The building underwent a program of refurbishment in the 1980s, after a substantially new congregation began to use it. For many decades, the building was used by Strict and Particular Baptists (indicated regularly by the name: 'Providence Chapel', often preferred by this group). Since the 1980s, the building has been used by an independent, undenominational Christian congregation. Not unusually for British congregations of an evangelical outlook, the front of the building regularly displays a rotation of Bible texts.
The Georgian forms of the adjacent building — converted into a welfare office — are also of interest, and stand in contrast to the Gothic lines of Providence Chapel.
Oxford Road has undergone considerable re-development in recent years, with some high-profile demolition having occurred. Some years ago, there was lively, controversial discussion locally about the fate of the former Battle Hospital, with an entrance on Oxford Road not far from Providence Chapel, especially because of the former Hospital's historic associations and meritorious architectural features dating from the 19th century (1). Providence Chapel, however, has been spared, responsibility for the building being held by an independent trust.
Providence Chapel is situated at 103 Oxford Road, a short, walking distance from the Downtown area of Reading, in England's Berkshire.
October 25, 2012
(1) It is unfortunately fair to say that in Great Britain many 19th century buildings which, in a country such as Canada would doubtless be preserved for their heritage value, continue to be obliterated by developers. I can think of old buildings of merit which I knew in England, about which I would have enjoyed writing further hubpages such as this one, but which have very regrettably disappeared in recent years. (Perhaps Canada can in this respect teach something to the Old Country? I leave the question open.)
Also worth seeing
In Reading itself, visitor attractions include many other church buildings of note, including Reading Minster, St Mary's Episcopal Chapel, the former Broad Street Independent Chapel, the church of St Lawrence-in-Reading, the Hospitium of the former Reading Abbey in which what became the University of Reading partly originated in 1892; and many others.
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, you are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.