March 28, 2016
I’ve driven past St. James the less in Stubbings (Maidenhead) repeatedly over the last couple of decades but never had the chance to stop and take a look around. I was on my way back from hiking in the Chilterns much earlier than expected and the low winter sun looked phenomenal so stopped to look around.
Unfortunately, because I had spent the day focusing so damn hard on not working one of my clients got to the point of being overwhelmingly trigger happy with the redial button on his phone and I spent about 40 minutes pacing around the car park while hoping to accidentally lose a leg or be struck by a falling tree. I missed the best of the light, I was also too mentally unfocused to try and go inside for fear of having to engage with other humans who may ask difficult questions such as “how are you today?”
Again, it’s been a couple of months since I took the photos so don’t have much recollection of the details aside from pacing round the car park while discussing websites. There was a man playing loud music in an Ocado van out the front but I don’t think he was a permanent fixture. The church is located just down the road from Maidenhead thicket so quite a peaceful surrounding (loud Ocado man notwithstanding). There were quite a few crows, but again I suspect these were not an intended feature.
The church dates back to 1849, and if their website is anything to go by has some decent stained glass windows. My aforementioned horror at possibly human contact prevented my experiencing these. I appreciate my reviews are getting patchy at this point, I’m working towards writing stuff up closer to the date, or just learning to write things down.
March 27, 2016
I had to think about including this entry as I’m not particularly happy with any of the shots. I only stopped in here on the way back from a long hike in the Chilterns, I was quite tired and a little emotional. At some point I’ll drop back in and give it another try.
It’s a nice little church in a lovely location. There’s a great view of the windmill from the churchyard. It has some decent stained glass windows. The current building dates back to 1340 and is a lovely flint building. It includes a small John Piper window.
The church is situated in the incredibly quaint village of Turville although I found it incredibly hard to get a decent angle to get any shots of the building itself (there’s a lot of trees very close by), tiredness may have contributed to this.
August 6, 2015
I like churches. Historically and architecturally I find them fascinating, as an environment I find them calming. They are one of the few places I can be where no-one is yelling at me. Being somewhere no-one yells at me makes me feel better about myself. Going back a few years I would spend a fair amount of spare time pottering around religious edifices with a camera. I had a plan that I was going to start a project to photograph all the churches in Berkshire, then I found out how many churches there are in Berkshire and decided it was a really stupid idea.
I was discussing it with my friend Neil (Neildixon.com) the other day, and he suggested I should just do it anyway. Doing ALL of the churches would be unmanageable so I’m going to set some qualifiers, I’m not sure what they are yet, I will probably base it on buildings over a certain age or possibly just the ones I like the look of (scientific!).
I have a specific motivation behind starting now. I’ve been struggling far more than usual with anxiety levels and need a creative, non-work project to focus on. This helps remove me from the stresses of life both in a mental and a physical manner if only for an hour or so at a time. I really do find churches incredibly calming places, they remind me of a simpler time (predominantly my childhood rather than the historical implication which is really anything but calming).
I chose All Saints’ Church in Binfield for the first location primarily because it was somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time. I had last been there at my my brothers christening when I was four years old and to the best of my knowledge never returned. We had lived in a little cottage down the road in the middle of the countryside (now an industrial estate). Having nothing but positive, peaceful memories of the place made it a good destination for escape when work was really starting to bring me down.
Taking a couple of hours off on a Friday afternoon I stopped first at the Jack of Newbury for lunch (just round the corner, very pleasant, quiet and friendly) then wandered over. The barman at the pub had informed me of the not so obvious entrance to the church car-park which was helpful as it’s positioned on a bit of a terrifying corner, it’s not a busy road but it is one that people come down at excessive speeds.
Walking into the churchyard through a side gate gave me a strange sense of nostalgia, I hadn’t expected to remember anything about the place, having not been there for 35 years, but the sight of it felt familiar. While half of the churchyard has been immaculately tended the other half has been left to nature and there’s a lovely winding path through high grass and wildflowers up to the end of the church. As I walked around I spotted little bunches of flowers wrapped in foil and ribbons left carefully on the benches, giving the deserted rural location a slightly curious atmosphere. As I approached the church a woman was locking up, she told me she had been clearing up after the church flower festival which explained the floral offerings on the benches. She also let me know that unfortunately the church was only accessible during service hours, which is a shame as I’d really love to have a look around inside and it’s unlikely I’ll get the opportunity to go over to Binfield on a Sunday in the near future. She did kindly leave me her number and suggest I call sometime, if I can fight through phone anxiety enough to do so I will at some point.
All Saints Church dates back to 1350, a wooden church previously existed but was built upon/replaced (the history I’ve found is unclear). Additions and upgrades have been carried out over the centuries with a large portion of work being carried out in the 19th century.
Although my plan initially was to just photograph the buildings, I’d now quite like to find out a bit more about them, ideally I could be interviewing people involved for more information but that does involve a degree of human interaction I’m not entirely comfortable with which somewhat defeats the object of a solitary, calming project. Also I’ve interviewed people before, I’m terrible at it (there are audio recordings to prove this, I’m not telling you where they are).
The building is lovely to look at, a properly traditional grey stone, red tile roof country church. The path meanders through a well kept churchyard up to a wood and stone porch area. The focal point is very much the tower (which I’d love a chance to go up, my father mentioned he has been up there in the past). The windows look fascinating from the outside but it’s hard to get a good view of stained glass from the outside. There’s a couple of stone heads adorning the doorway round the back but aside from those it’s subtle affair, not drenched in ornament.
A chance to explore the tower, but more so the inside would be welcome, when I can engineer some more spare time I’ll have another try. In the interim here are the pictures I took outside, you can view the full set on flickr – All Saints’ Church photoset on Flickr.
On a slightly strange side story, on the way home I was passing the house I lived in later in life which is again in the countryside and three doors down from a church. I stopped off there to take some photos as well. I parked up in the tiny shaded space for visitor parking and made my way through the church gate into a graveyard devoid of church. It would appear there was never a church there. There is a small copse in the middle of the graveyard that my memory had morphed into a building.
In writing this I have realised I have absolutely no knowledge of the history of architecture of churches and very little awareness of the correct terminology for the various parts of church buildings,in an effort to stop referring to ‘the pointy bit at the end’ and the ‘decoratey bit down the middle’ I’ve picked up a copy of Rice’s Church Primer (taking this seriously now), which I’ll review once I’ve finished.
Do you know of any particularly interesting churches in the Maidenhead/Berkshire area? Let me know and I’ll make an effort to put together a list to work through.
I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).
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