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. 

Gladman application refused

The application by Gladman to build 245 houses in Eye & Dunsden parish has been turned down by SODC on grounds of lack of available local education facilities. 

The application was opposed by seven local parishes in South Oxon and by residents' associations in Emmer Green - and by Reading Borough Council. 

District councillor Paul Harrison, who represents Sonning Commmon Ward, sent out the following email on May 23, which he had received from SODC Planning :

Dear All

Just to update you on the above application for 245 dwellings at Emmer Green.  

Both the County and Reading Borough council are objecting to the application on the lack of primary school capacity. 

Reading Borough Council (RBC) have advised that the local schools in the immediate vicinity are at capacity therefore there would be an objection in principle to development that would increase demand on school places that cannot be mitigated.  RBC has also advised that it does not have a duty to build new places for children located outside of the Borough therefore children from within the proposed development would not get a school place before the children of Reading residents living within the catchment.

OCC has advised that the nearest Oxfordshire primary schools to the development (within approximately 3 miles) include Sonning Common, Kidmore End, Shiplake and Peppard.  The above schools are on constrained sites and are unable to expand to meet the needs of this proposed development. OCC therefore objects to this proposed development on the grounds there is insufficient primary school capacity.

The application was discussed at a recent Cabinet Member Briefing and the Leader has agreed with the recommendation to refuse the application on the lack of primary school capacity.  It is therefore intended to refuse the application on that ground under delegated authority. 


Joan Desmond

Major Applications Officer


South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils

Customer services: 01235 422600


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