George Fellowes Prynne


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WARGRAVE Berkshire
St. Mary

The pictures show the exterior before and after the fire and restoration – the “before” image being from a postcard sent to Paris in 1906. The interior is also illustrated.

The church was almost completely destroyed by a fire on 1 June 1914, which was suspected as arson. The rebuilding commenced soon after, despite the First World War, and the new building design by Fellowes Prynne incorporated as much as possible of the old, either in what remained, or in the essence of what was previously there. Indeed, Fellowes Prynne had been briefed to retain as much of the character and feeling of the old church as he could.

The nave roof shows an example of Fellowes Prynne’s abandoning his usual practice of placing a barrel roof to cover the roof trusses. Here the roof structure can be seen. He has, however, put a barrel roof in the chancel and sanctuary, where previously there had been an open, rather cumbersome-looking series of tie beams and verticals which doubtless detracted from the beauty of the east window.

A particular point to note, concerning the architect’s approach to conservation of older features, is that fragments of Norman arches were uncovered during the rebuilding. Fellowes Prynne not only made a point of leaving them exposed, but he echoed the round arch shape at the entrance to the north transept. His plans for a baptistery were never used.

Externally, the main features of the old building were preserved, although comparisons between a postcard sent in 1906, and a recent photograph show that there are differences in the chancel and sanctuary windows, and that the roof level of the new chancel is higher (though not to the level of the nave).

The following information on the lych gate was provided by John Pritchard, to whom I am most grateful.

According to faculty and visitation records, the lych gate was built in 1913, to a design by AY Nutt. A photograph in the Reading Borough Library collection of an open-air service held on the first Sunday after the fire shows very clearly the burnt-out building and the lych-gate. It can be viewed here.