Home » Buildings and Structures » Churches » St Peter’s Church » Restoration

This page covers the restorations of 1878 and 1980s and of the Church Bells.

Restoration 1878

Reading Mercury – Saturday 04 May 1878

THE RE-OPENING OF CHARNEY CHURCH. To the long list of churches in this diocese which have of late been restored may now be added that of Charney. When the Rev. J. Whitehurst was appointed to the curacy some fifteen months ago he found the building in the most dilapidated state, and the congregations small. With the greatest earnestness he at once set about the work of restoration. Whilst the funds were being raised, the zeal of Mr. Whitehurst’s ministrations soon attracted very many of the lower orders to attend regularly the services of their church. In the restoration he was ably supported in the collection of funds by Mr. Charles Beesley, Mr. James Beesley, and Mr. W. M. Tagg, the principal parishioners, who contributed largely, together with Mr. Whitehurst himself, the Rev. O. Jenkins (who bears the cost of restoring the church), Mr. Pusey, Mr. Stevens, and others. On Friday, the 26th ult, the church was re-opened with all that rejoicing which usually attends the consummation of such work. The church is very ancient, apparently dating from the Norman period; the extreme narrowness of the nave compared with the length favours the theory. The Norman remains appear to be the south doorway the nave, and the elaborately carved head of the doorway now in the chancel. The church now consists of nave, chancel, and south aisle [sic – north aisle], and is in the perpendicular style; one window on the south side of the nave and one on the same side of the chancel are of the decorated period. The Norman doorhead in the chancel is supposed to have been in the north side of the nave, in the original Norman place, and may have been removed and placed in its present position at the time of adding the aisle, in the latter part of the 14th, or in the early part of the 15th, century. It was then made to form part of a “squint” from the aisle into the chancel, but must have been built up some time subsequently. There is nothing to indicate the date of this building-up; and until the restoration was begun there was nothing to indicate the existence of the “squint.” In the presence of the incumbent and architect the plaster work and some of the walling was knocked away, and the “squint” was then discovered. It is now opened out as it originally stood, and forms a most pleasing feature. The restoration included taking off part the roof of the nave and aisle, re-paving and adding new timbers, and entirely re-leading the roof. The chancel roof, which is entirely new, is of oak, and covered with stone slating. The new seats in the nave are of yellow pine and will be stained, whilst those in the chancel and the reading desk are of oak, all new. The nave and chancel are paved with tiles, the latter being encaustic. There was a very nude [sic – should this have been ‘nice’?] specimen of Jacobian work in the old screen, but so dilapidated was it, that it was thought well to remove it, and in its place to erect new one of oak in the perpendicular style, very beautifully carved by a London firm. A new warming apparatus has also been supplied, and works very satisfactorily. Mr. T. G. Collcutt, [could this in fact have been Mr T E Collcutt? see below] of 36, Bloomsbury-square, London, was the architect, and his plans and intentions have been faithfully carried out by the contractor Mr. Aldworth, of East Hanney, Wantage. The total cost of the works is £720. Such then is the restored church. The Ven. Archdeacon Pott (in the unavoidable absence of the Bishop) attended the opening ceremony. There was a large attendance of the neighbouring clergy, who, assembling at the parsonage, marched thence in procession with the choir (who wore surplices for the first time) to the Church, and on arriving at the gate, sang the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers”, they procceeded [sic] to their allotted seats. The sermon of the Ven. Archdeacon was in his usual eloquent style, and was founded on the 2nd verse of the 125th Psalm, ” The hills stand about Jerusalem; even so standeth the Lord round about His people from this time forth for evermore.” At two o’clock upwards of 50 ladies and gentlemen sat down to an excellent cold luncheon, provided by Mr. Emmens, of Abingdon, laid out in the schoolroom. The Rev. J. Whitehurst presided, and he was supported by the Ven. Archdeacon, Mrs. Whitehurst, the Rev. O. Jenkins (rector of Longworth and Charney), and Mr. J. Stevens, Q.C., Messrs. C. Busley [sic – Beesley?] and Tagg filling the vice-chairs. The chairman in appropriate terms, proposed the toast of “Church and Queen” which was heartily received. Mr. R. Pike gave the health of the Ven. Archdeacon, which was well received, and to which that gentlemen responded. Mr. Jackson gave the health of the subscribers and churchwardens, coupling with the former the name of Mr. Stevens, a landowner in the parish ; and with the latter Mr. Martin Tagg, both of whom suitably responded, as did also Mr. Busley [sic – Beesley?]. Mr. Tagg proposed the health of the Rev. O. Jenkins, who responded. The Chairman then gave the health ofthe Architect (Mr. Collcutt), who suitably replied. Mr. Wallis, in humourous terms gave ” The Ladies,” and called on the Rev. O. T. Reichel to respond for them. Both the manner in which the toast was given and responded to created much laughter. The party then dispersed, and the men who had been engaged in the work of restoration, took their places at the tables, and with the choir partook of the good things placed before them. At six o’clock evening service was held, when the Rev. E. P. Wellings (Vicar Stanford-in-the-Vale), preached the sermon. The church during each service was well filled, and the collections during the day amounted to upwards of £14.

Name:Thomas Edward Collcutt
Born:16 March 1840
Died:7 October 1924
Bio Notes:

Thomas Edward Collcutt was born in Oxford on 16 March 1840. He was educated at the Oxford Diocesan School at Cowley and at Mill Hill.

In 1856 Collcutt was articled to Richard Armstrong, an Edinburgh-born London-based architect who had been an assistant with Edward Blore and had some connection with David Bryce. At the end of his articles he became an assistant first to Mills & Murgatroyd and then to George Edmund Street, subsequently spending some time with the cabinetmakers Collinson & Locke which gave him experience in high-quality woodwork. In 1867 he moved to Brighton as assistant to its burgh surveyor P C Lockwood, working on the conversion of the Pavilion stables riding school into assembly rooms.

Collcutt commenced independent practice in London in 1869, one of his earliest private clients being his former employers Collinson & Locke whose Fleet Street premises he designed in 1873-4. In 1872, when briefly in partnership with the obscure H Woodzell, Collcutt won his first competition, the Public Library and Museum at Blackburn, Lancashire. In 1877 he won that for the Town Hall at Wakefield with a Gothic design in deference to the assessor, his former master G E Street, but in execution redesigned it in a predominantly English early Renaissance manner which was to become characteristic of his work in the 1880s and 1890s, increasingly infused with refined French and Hispanic detail, frequently executed in terracotta. 

These successes resulted in him being admitted FRIBA on 13 January 1879, his proposers being Street, James Brooks and Edward Robert Robson. By 1886 he had acquired sufficient standing to be nominated for the limited competition for the Imperial Institute in South Kensington, which he won, the building being completed in 1893: his refusal to shorten the tower is said to have cost him the knighthood usually conferred for such buildings. The story may be apocryphal, but no other major government commission came his way and the remainder of his career was spent on a flourishing practice of private and commercial client work, notably for Richard D’Oyly Carte at the Royal English Opera House (1891) and at the Savoy, where a bold High Renaissance treatment in white faience was adopted. In his domestic work an accomplished English Arts and Crafts manner was adopted from about 1900.

Collcutt was awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 1902. From 1906 he was in partnership with Stanley Hinge Hamp, born 1877, who had been both pupil and assistant and had briefly left to establish his own practice in 1904. 

Collcutt retired in 1920, devoting his time to writing ‘London of the Future’ (published in 1923), a book which discouraged open fires and advocated central heating to improve the atmosphere. He died at Southampton on 7 October 1924. The Buenos Aires architect Bertie Hawkins Collcutt (1883-1937) was his nephew.


The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 417, Essex Street, Strand, London, EnglandBusiness1873 *  
Item 2 of 412, Finsbury Place South, London, EnglandBusiness1875 *  
Item 3 of 436, Bloomsbury Square, London, EnglandPrivate/business(?)Before 1878After 1914 
Item 4 of 45, Lancaster Place, Strand, London, EnglandBusiness1891  

earliest date known from documented sources.


Restoration of St Peter’s Church 1982-86

Commemoration of the Restoration 28 June 1987



Procession to St Peter’s Church after robing in Wick Cottage [courtesy of Jackie Harrison].

Left to Right:

Rev John Cole

Rev Canon Herbie Stuart

David Douglas – Church Warden

Bishop of Reading Graham Foley

Rev Brian Shenton

Service sheet courtesy of David and Barbara Douglas.

Restoration of the Building 1982 to 1986

Following a statutory 5-year inspection by the Church Architect, the PCC agreed to embark on a major project to restore the main parts of the building indicated by him as urgent and essential to be undertaken. These were:

  • complete renewal of the roof covering (which had leaked and been patched for many years), including specialist work on roof timbers (see below);
  • replacement of all window glass except for remnants of medieval stained glass in the Chancel, repairs to some window stonework;
  • complete renewal of flooring under all the pews and the back floor section. The pews were all removed and sent away for refurbishment;
  • modification and adjustment of drainage for roof surface water, removal of ground guttering and installation of French drains round the building;
  • death watch beetle was found in all the roof timbers. Due to the antiquity of these timbers we were not permitted to replace them, so they were hollowed out and cavity-filled with stainless steel rods and fibreglass.

A small Restoration Committee was formed of Ray Ellis, Charles Eld, Frank Schofield, Barbara Douglas, David Douglas and Vic Hodgkins. After initial legal processes the Committee turned to raising the money required to finance this large project, which was estimated to be £56,000 – a large amount for that time. This turned out to be a lengthy and busy process. The local community contributed with generosity and goodwill, and many money-raising events were arranged both in the village and at outside events. The Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust and English Heritage were involved with every aspect of the project and donated approximately 40% of the sum required.

After much hard work, headaches, frustrations and difficulties for over two years the project was successfully completed. A Service of dedication and thanksgiving by the Bishop of Reading was held on Sunday 28 June 1987.

Text and Photos courtesy of David and Barbara Douglas. [Click to enlarge and scroll]

Christmas card sold in aid of the St Peter’s restoration appeal.

A contemporary poem

Friday dawned dark and drear
Our church was in a mess
Plastic at the window, dust causing great distress
The contractors left the church in such a state
but we were indeed so fortunate
to have a band of willing cleaners.
They swept pew and aisle so clean
So bright and shining you could not see
where the glaziers had been
The flower arrangers followed
They seemed an army strong
They toiled the whole of Friday
Until before ere long
The church was full of flowers, the scent of them so sweet
with delphinium and lilies and dainty marguerite.

Restoration of the Bells

Photos courtesy of David and Barbara Douglas. [Click to enlarge and scroll]

Financial Statement 22/3/1988