Church

Binfield Heath does not have its own parish church: it lies in the ecclesiastical parish of Shiplake with Dunsden and Harpsden cum Bolney. The nearest CofE churches are in Dunsden and Shiplake and villagers use both.

As the village grew modestly in the early 19th century, there was a need for a convenient local place of worship. The Congregational Church at Binfield Heath, known locally as ‘the chapel’, was built in 1835. The initiative came from the Rev James Sherman, an active and charismatic preacher in the Castle Street Chapel in Reading. With support from the Countess of Huntingdon, he started what became known as Reading ‘stations’. Binfield Heath is one of only two to survive as churches. An opportunity arose to buy land in Binfield Heath and there was local support but no local money. That came liberally and unexpectedly from a Reading patron, Mrs Sarah Adams. The land was bought and ‘a very pretty church with tower and bell with a schoolroom attached was in the course of twelve months erected’. The church is built in Bath Stone in the Gothic Revival style.  In the early days the preacher would walk from Caversham Hill to Binfield Heath and on to Wargrave each Sunday. Even now with a much smaller congregation, two services are held, with preachers coming from a variety of churches and chapels.

There is one more strand in the history of worship here: Ted Lammas remembers that when he was a boy in the 1920s and 1930s the pastor of the church was Mr Robert Lochhead. He had come to the church from the Salvation Army and felt very strongly that he should take the message of God to the people. On Tuesday evenings, open air meetings were held at Mays Green, at the Bottle and Glass, and at Heathfield Avenue. Here, to quote Ted, they would “sing hymns and shout out the Gospel to the villagers”.  The Mission Room  A parish school was built at the crossroads at Coppice Farm in 1847. From 1859 to 1869 services were also held there while Shiplake Church was being restored. Later, with the addition of a small apse at the west end, it was used as a mission hall.  In 1871, when the new school was built at Shiplake Cross, the building was purchased by Sir Robert Phillimore.

Occasional services were held there in the second world war, apparently monthly, with the second Lord Phillimore serving as a licensed lay-reader. The historian, Reginald Ford, records great disappointment when these were discontinued around 1948. The former school, chapel and mission hall is now a house. 

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