Building » Reading – Sacred Heart

Reading – Sacred Heart

Watlington Street, Reading, Berkshire

Church, originally Anglican, of 1872-5 in an exuberant, High Victorian thirteenth-century style. It is an ambitious, costly and little-altered landmark building, its lavish ornament and strong polychromy making a striking display. The muscular Gothic school to the south adds much to the ensemble. 

The building was originally built by Anglicans in 1872-5 and was dedicated to St John the Evangelist. The architect was the little-known the little-known W. Allen Dixon and this is his only known Anglican church (his Baptist church at Edgware, c.1872 survives; another Baptist church in Hampstead, 1878 has been demolished). After it became redundant, the church was taken over as a place of worship by local Polish Catholics.


An aisled church with transepts and a southwest tower (with broach spire) which doubles as the entrance porch. It is built of Kentish ragstone laid randomly, and has limestone and red sandstone polychrome voussoirs to the window heads: further use of is made of red sandstone for shafts to some of the windows and arcading. The tower is has an entrance in the western face, a two-light Geometrical window in the south face of the ground stage, a band of arcading above, then a clock face before the two-light, shafted belfry windows. The spire is of stone, not brick, as stated in the list entry (below). It has ribs, two tiers of pierced quatrefoils, and tall two-light lucarnes rising from the base. Unusually the broaches are in two stages with a band of trefoils halfway up. Red, plain tile roofs.

The nave is flanked by half-octagonal turrets of different heights. The northern one rises in three stages terminating in a spirelet and gives access to the west gallery: the southern one, squeezed between the nave and tower, was occupied by the former baptistery. The west window is of 1-2-1 configuration and has Geometrical tracery, the middle pair being grouped and rising higher. The clerestory has a series of circular windows. Low twin gables over each transept.

The interior is spacious and has arcades of five bays with circular piers, stiff-leaf capitals, and two orders with roll-mouldings in the heads: hood-moulds with head-stops. The clerestory windows are flanked by shafts with stiff-leaf capitals. The chancel arch rises from shafts resting on corbel blocks. At the east end of the chancel there is a three-light window with a large, foiled circle in the head. In the nave the roof is arch-braced with a low collar and tall crown-post. The chancel roof is keel-shaped with transverse ribs. Lean-to roofs over the aisles.

The hexagonal pulpit (north) is of stone with marble shafts. There are several stained glass windows dating from Edwardian times including four single light ones under the gallery, signed by Clayton & Bell and dating from 1909.

Entry amended by AHP 27.12.2020

List description (listed as Church of St John the Evangelist)


Church of England. 1872-75 by W A Dixon. Large Early English style rock faced Kentish Rag Church with buff and red sandstone dressings. South-west tower with angle buttresses and 2 light bell-stage openings. Gargoyles and machicolation below brick spire with gables. Columned doorway at front of tower with carved lunette and applied crocketed gable over. Tripled west window, stilted arches. Half octagon turrets of different heights flank west front. Tall short nave and chancel, gabled aisle chapels. Stonework around foundation stone excavated in order to remove the foundation stone.

Listing NGR: SU7229673176

Heritage Details

Architect: W.A. Dixon

Original Date: 1872

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II