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English Church Architecture -

Berkshire West (U. A.).


EASTBURY, St. James the Greater (SU 345 772)     (March 2013)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)


This is a small, plain church (shown above from the north) from the early career of George Edmund Street (it was erected in 1851-3), formed of only a chancel, nave and N. aisle under a red-tiled catslide roof. Its significance lies in its vernacular design, based - as Geoffrey Tyak and Simon Bradley have pointed out in The Buildings of England - on the mediaeval barns of north and west Berkshire, and appropriately faced in knapped flint, off-set with stone dressings (as illustrated below right).  The only concession to the building’s ecclesiastical character is the double bell-cote marking the junction between the nave and chancel, with two arches for bells positioned side by side (i.e. north to south).  However, one awkward feature that has arisen as a result is that the N. aisle windows have had to be kept very small to maintain the allusion (there are no N. windows at all in the chancel), and although the east  and south windows are more generous - the chancel E. window being formed of five-lights with three sexfoils in circles in the head and the S. windows, of a cusped Y-traceried window with subsidiary tracery in the chancel and one four-light and one three-light untraceried window in the nave - the interior is still very dark.  The aisle has a small but attractive W. window formed of three rounded windows in a circle and there is an extremely tall lancet in the W. wall of the nave.



Inside the church, once the visitor's eyes have become accustomed to the gloom, the three-bay aisle arcade (seen above right, from the southwest) is seen to be composed of arches bearing a single flat chamfer springing from piers that are little more than chamfered wall pieces.  The chancel arch carries a sunk quadrant moulding on either side (i.e. east and west) which dies into the jambs, and almost the only feature in the chancel itself is the sedilia recessed in the sanctuary S. wall, formed of two cinquefoil-cusped arches separated by a tall round shaft.  It is all very simple and straightforward but the building is an excellent demonstration of how effective a building design Street could produce when he only had money for the bare essentials.  Nothing is wasted on fripperies here and Street’s achievement has been to make a virtue of economy.