Summer funding boost for St Peter’s church, Woolhampton

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A much-loved Berkshire church is to get a £15,000 grant from the National Churches Trust. The money will help fund tower and spire repairs at the Grade II listed St Peter’s church, Woolhampton, making the church watertight and preserving its historic fabric.

St Peter's, Woolhampton. Pic: National Churches Trust

St Peter’s, Woolhampton. Pic: National Churches Trust

St. Peter’s church was originally built in the 13th century and was valued in 1291 at £4.13s.4d. It was probably associated with the Knights Hospitallers (founded 1133), who owned the Woolhampton and Brimpton estate from 1159 to 1544. The church was extended in 1861 by London architect James Johnson.

It is built of flint with stone dressings and is cruciform in plan with a single aisled nave, chancel, north and south transepts and inner and outer vestries in the northeast corner. The roof is covered with red clay tiles with decorative ridges and there is a wooden bellicose and a shingle clad oak spirelet on the west gable with three bells.

The small church can seat 150 people. Pews, with dwarf doors and other fittings, are made of sweet chestnut from the Woolhampton estate. The pulpit, made from Caen stone, has pleasant mouldings and is a feature of the church.

The stained glass is perhaps St Peter’s greatest treasure. The west end window, dated 1861 and donated by the Dowager Lady Falmouth, one of the largest and best in any parish church, is by Thomas Willement, the heraldic artist to George IV and artist in stained glass to Queen Victoria. The window is a blend of heraldic subjects connected with Lord Falmouth’s family above and scriptural scenes below, the Widow of Nain and the Raising of Lazarus. Other stained glass windows in the chancel and north and south transepts depict various biblical scenes.

The project

Over the years, woodpeckers have pecked their way through the cedar shingles on the spire. There were holes around the broached base of the spire and towards the top where rainwater had been getting in. Furthermore, there had been extensive timber decay.

After the timber repair is completed, the spire will be re-shingled to make it weather-tight. This will include interleaving courses of oak shingles with stainless-steel sheet to protect them against further woodpecker damage and the use of oak in the place of cedar for longevity.

Prue Matchwick and Catherine Lovell, members of the PCC of St Peter’s said: “We are enormously grateful to the National Churches Trust for their generosity in granting us £15,000 towards the repair of the badly damaged spire of our much loved church.”

Broadcaster and journalist Huw Edwards, Vice President of The National Churches Trust, said: “The UK’s historic churches and chapels are a vital part of our national heritage and have done so much to help local people during the COVID-19 lockdown. But to survive, many need to carry out urgent repairs and install modern facilities. The cost of this work is far beyond what most congregations can pay for themselves.

“I’m delighted that St Peter’s church, well known for its stained glass, is being helped with a £15,000 National Churches Trust Cornerstone Grant. The work on the tower and spire, which have been damaged by woodpeckers, will help secure the future of this historic building.”