I was baptised and confirmed at St. Mary's. I also sang in the choir, was a member of the Youth Club and served on the Parochial Church Council.
Like many of the pages on my website, this page is under construction. I will add to it as and when I stumble across material.
I found this history in a programme for a Flower Festival and Art Exhibition held at the church in aid of the The Church of England Children's Society on 22nd, 23rd and 24th August. I haven't worked our the year yet, but the 2nd was a Friday.
I knew Wilf Cannings very well. Besides being Verger he was a postman and also Mayor of Newbury. I remember driving him to official engagements in my Triumph 2000.
This Church was the first built in the Archdeaconry of Berkshire after the Reformation. Previous to this, the parishioners had to go to the Speen Parish Church, which in passing is the oldest Church in this town.
The work commenced on the building of the Church on July 31st, 1829, this being 140 years ago. It was part of the plan of the Rev. Henry William Majendie after he had been Vicar of Speen for ten years, to build it as a Chapel of Ease. It cost £7,000, was completed, and consecrated on August 16th, 1831, by the Bishop of Salisbury, Berkshire at this time being in the Diocese of Salisbury.
The parish was now growing into a much larger hamlet and in 1834 the Rev. J. A. D. Meakin was appointed Curate-in-charge and so became the first incumbent of the new Parish of Speenhamland when it was duly constituted in 1844. He held this position until his death in 1873.
The Rev. Majendie used to preach in this Church on Sunday evenings and as there was no evening service in St. Nicolas Church at the time, the people would walk across the Marsh (now Victoria Park) to attend St. Mary's, which of course resulted in this being packed.
Here the Rev. J. L. Randall was appointed to St. Nicolas and undertook the restoration and so of course, the attendance at St. Mary's diminished.
In 1873, the Rev. J. N. Garry was appointed Vicar, and was the first actual Vicar of this parish, but only remained one year. During this year of office came the first move to renovate and beautify the Church, as it was so plain and uninteresting.
Here I must add for your information that the interior of the Church has been completely turned round since it was first built. The altar now stands at the northern end and the font at the southern end. The actual doors were where the chancel rails are now.
Here we now have the Rev. J. L. Gibbs appointed Vicar who really took the job in hand of rebuilding the Church. The galleries were removed and an entirely new chancel built. This was designed by Mr. G. E. Street (the architect of the Royal Courts of Justice in London). We are now in the year 1879 and also in the Oxford Diocese and so the chancel now finished was consecrated by the Bishop of Oxford, Dr. Mackarness.
In addition to the chancel, clergy and choir vestries were built and also the porch where St. John's chapel now stands.
This is also the year when many gifts were made to the Church, this include the pulpit, lectern, stained-glass windows, reredos, choir stall and organ.
One very interesting factor is the stained-glass window over the altar. The general subject is the Apostle's Creed with five main groups--The Annunciation, The Nativity, The Crucifixion, The Resurrection and The Ascension. Also at the top of the window are the figures of John the Baptist and the prophet Isaiah, whilst at the very top you have the Lamb that was slain, the keynote being:
“Behold the Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world.”
It cost 400 guineas and is the memorial of Mrs. Sherwood.
While you are in the Chancel there are two small stained- glass windows on the west side. The window on the right and in the bottom left-hand corner is a picture of a baptism. In the background of the picture are the head and shoulders of a bearded gentleman, which was taken from a photograph of Mr. Tanner, to whom the window is a memorial.
The reredos is a memorial to the Rev. H. W. Majendie, 50 years Vicar of Speen.
The pulpit is of Bath stone on a marble base. The panels are filled with sculptured figures of St. Paul with an open book and a sword, St. John with a closed book and a cup out of' which is issuing a serpent, and St. Philip holding a cross.
Before I continue, I would like to add here that the organ was first opened in the year 1855, on December 8th, and a recital given by Mr. Dodd, of Queen's College.
The chancel with its numerous gifts cost £5,000 and with the added mural paintings in memory of Mr. S. H. Bellows 14 years organist, and now complete services of thanksgiving were held on October 7th and 8th 1890.
You now come to the St. John's Chapel where you can, on the west side, see a blocked-in doorway where the people came into Church. This was until the year 1899 when the Rev. C. L. Jeayes was appointed Vicar. He undertook to rebuild the nave. This was designed by the son of the original architect, Mr. A. E. Street. After many difficulties were overcome and the foundations strengthened the stone was laid with Masonic rights on July 11th, 1911. This stone can be seen outside on the west side. After the nave was completed on July 5th, 1912, a service of dedication was held. The cost of this work was £5,770.
The window in St. John's Chapel is of the angel appearing to the
shepherds: “Fear not for behold I bring you good tidings of great
joy." It is to the memory of Frederick and Rachael
The painting over the St. John's Chapel of the angel Gabriel appearing to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is to the memory of Mary Gibbs who died at the early age of 25 in 1891.
The stained-glass window on the west side is the memorial of Madame Roffe and Miss Adele Roffe. They were well known for their educational work and interest in parish affairs. The principal lights are of the four good women mentioned in the New Testament, viz. Phoebe, Mary of Bethany, Eunice and Dorcas. In the upper tracery are some of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, viz. joy, faith, peace, meekness, temperance and goodness. The Holy Spirit can be seen coming down as a dove and crowning all is the inscription:
“Rooted and grounded in love.”
This is the work of Messrs. Powell.
Opposite, on the east side, is the memorial window to the Rev. J. G. Gibbs and his daughters Mary and Edith. It is designed and based on the Christian name of the Rev. Gibbs (Joseph) for 24 years Vicar of the parish. There is Joseph of Arimathea, Joseph the Carpenter and Joseph son of Jacob, while the remaining light is of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The costume of Joseph son of Jacob is believed to be correct in every detail. This is the work of A. K. Nicholson.
We also have on the east side a very modern stained-glass window, which is to the memory of Mrs. Meakin, which was put in 1955.