Building » Sonning Common – St Michael

Sonning Common – St Michael

Peppard Road, Sonning Common, Reading RG4

A large post-war church built during the Second Vatican Council and designed with a freestanding altar. Disused altar rails with good ironwork designs survive in the sanctuary.

The mission was founded in 1947 from Caversham (qv) and the parish was erected in 1955. By 1962, a temporary church and a permanent presbytery had been built on a strip of land south of Peppard Road. Archard & Partners initially prepared plans for the extension of the temporary church (unexecuted) but soon the decision was made to build a permanent hall and church (both designed by Geoffrey Pennell in association with Archard & Partners).

The parish hall was built in 1961–2, costing £4,000. From September 1962, the hall was temporarily used for services as the old church was demolished and the new one built on its site. In March 1963 the Archbishop laid the foundation stone. The church was opened on 28 September 1963 in the absence of the Archbishop (who was attending the Second Vatican Council). It was blessed by the Archbishop on 10 June 1964. The cost of the church was £15,500. It was designed with a freestanding altar to allow the priest to say Mass facing the congregation, in line with the liturgical recommendations of the Second Vatican Council.


The church faces southwest. The following description follows conventional liturgical orientation.

The church was built in 1962–3 to designs by Geoffrey Pennell in association with Archard & Partners. It is a portal-framed building with brick panels. The plan is longitudinal, with a wide aisleless nave and chancel under one roof and a shallow projecting sacristy to the south, under a cross roof. The west elevation is slightly recessed behind the outermost portal frame. Most of it is glazed, apart from the brick-faced lobby on either side of the entrance doors and a timber panel in the apex.

The interior is divided into six bays by the portal frames. The freestanding altar is of marble. Behind this, the east wall has a central area of acoustic panels with the tabernacle set into the wall. Below are now placed the original altar rails: four timber-framed panels of decorative iron work, depicting Eucharistic themes such as the loaves and fishes, and the Pious Pelican. To the north of the sanctuary is the octagonal aumbry, also set into the wall. To the south is the Lady Chapel with a plain altar and statue. Just west of the door to the sacristy stands the hexagonal marble font below a mahogany sculpture of St Michael and Lucifer by David John. All the windows have been replaced in UPVC.

In the 1980s, the church roof was retiled and the sacristy’s flat roof replaced by a pitched one.

Heritage Details

Architect: Geoffrey Pennell with Archard & Partners

Original Date: 1963

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed