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Visiting St. Giles' Church, Reading, Berkshire, England: With Medieval Origins and A Looming 19th Century Spire

Updated on April 17, 2020
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
The spire, St Giles's, Reading. Much of the church, including the upper part of the tower and the spire, are Victorian. The original parts of the church date back to the twelfth century.
The spire, St Giles's, Reading. Much of the church, including the upper part of the tower and the spire, are Victorian. The original parts of the church date back to the twelfth century. | Source
The westernpost stretch of Church Street, in Reading, is little more than a path through the churchyard of St. Giles' Church.
The westernpost stretch of Church Street, in Reading, is little more than a path through the churchyard of St. Giles' Church. | Source

History never ceases...

[NB: Among the many notable buildings which are the subject of these hubpages, these may include religious buildings, described as churches, etc.; these descriptions centre on the buildings' architectural and historical interest.]

Seen from Church Street (see above), Reading, Berkshire, England, St. Giles' Church and its vicinity looks as if it has hardly changed since the Middle Ages.

The building does indeed have its 12th Century parts.

In actual fact, it was extensively restored in the 19th century, when it acquired its most conspicuous feature, the striking spire which pierces the Reading skyline.

In the Middle Ages, the fortunes of Reading were closely tied with Reading Abbey, and in 1191 St Giles' Church — already in existence — was given to the Abbey by Pope Clement III. Thus also at the Reformation, when St Giles' Benedictine incumbent John Eynon refused to acknowledge Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, he, along with the Abbot of Reading, shared the same fate: execution. (A few years earlier, John Stillman, an active Lollard from Reading, had shared a similar fate for opposite, doctrinal reasons at the instigation of the then preponderant ecclesiastical leaders.)

During the 17th century English Civil War, St. Giles' Church was extensively damaged.

Its 19th century restoration saw the addition of its steeple in ashlar. The restored exterior of the building has flint facing (1). The work was carried out by architect James Piers St. Aubyn (1815-1895)(2), known especially for his restoration of St. Michael's Mount, Cornwall.

Pointed window arches and solid, flying buttresses give strongly Gothic flavour to this building, although the term English Perpendicular is also sometimes used. The churchyard facing Church Street has a number of old, large tombstones.

St. Giles' Church is located at Southampton Street's intersection with Church Street, Reading, Berkshire, England.

March 31, 2020

Notes

(1) See also: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1113579

(2) Other works by Architect St. Aubyn include many church restoration commissions; it has to be admitted that not a few 19th century architects — such as James Piers St. Aubyn and, in France, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc — interpreted the 'restorative' aspect of their commissions extremely widely. There are those who would even say that some 19th century architects' 'restorative' works were aiming at conformity to a state that never previously existed, except in the architects' own minds.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Southampton Street, looking northwards, c. 1875. On the east side, St. Giles's Church
Southampton Street, looking northwards, c. 1875. On the east side, St. Giles's Church | Source

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.

...

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.

Map location of Berkshire, United Kingdom
Map location of Berkshire, United Kingdom | Source

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