At the turn of the twentieth century, the residential area of Caversham Heights was being increasingly developed, and leading members of the new community decided it was time to have a church to serve the area. A building committee was set up led by the Rev C W E Cleaver, Vicar of Caversham, and comprising 23 members all living in the area. The Honorary Treasurer (though not a member of the committee) was E C Powell Esquire of Fairlawn, Peppard Road, and the Honorary Secretary was Dryland Haslam of Warren House. Two of the members are named as Joint Architects: James Haslam and Ernest Ravenscroft, both living in St Peter’s Avenue, and on March the 1st 1910, the Vicar announced that “After some considerable difference of opinion as to the precise form the building should take, we have at last come to a definite conclusion...”
A building fund was set up in late 1909. The site on the corner of Harrogate and Albert Road was given by W B Williams Esq J.P. of St Peter’s Hill, and he also gave £750. Other major donors were Mrs F G Saunders of Caversham Grove (£1000), Mr and Mrs Haslam (£231 10s), Miss Noble from The Hill Caversham (£200). Dr C M Powell, Mrs Radcliffe, Miss Radcliffe and Miss Warre (£100 each). The Incorporated Church Building Society granted £150 “upon condition that all the sittings are for the free use of the parishioners according to law”. The total cost of the church was £5500, and by 1 March £3000 had been raised. Matters obviously moved speedily ahead, with the foundation stone laid by Mrs Radcliffe on 2nd July 1910, and the building fund was closed on 31st December 1911.
St Andrew’s Church was consecrated in April 1911 in a service led by Francis Paget, Lord Bishop of Oxford. The first priest in charge was Somers Percy Heriz-Smith in 1911, followed swiftly by Herbert Fauvel 1911-12, and then Thomas Brancker 1912-17. The first district wardens were appointed in 1914, namely Blake Pearman Allnatt and Frederick Samuel Rudge.
In those first years much was put in place which we see in the church today: the lectern donated by Amy Hissey, one of the founding benefactors; the Chalice made by Omar Ramsden and Alwyn Carr; the organ, makers W Hill & Son, London, which was fitted a year after the church’s consecration in memory of Mary and Amy Hissey, who were founding benefactors but both mother and daughter died in 1910 before the church was completed; the font “dedicated to the Glory of God and the use of his Church by the following children...” in fact, 267 children! The children also gave one of the windows in 1921. The Hissey family were great supporters of St Andrew’s in its early years: there is a plaque on a front pew “dedicated by Mary Hissey Whit Sunday June 8 1919”.
On October 15th 1924 the foundation stone for the church hall was laid by Miss E M Moore (possibly a founding benefactor), and it was opened on February 23rd 1925. It was immediately put to good use, with the opening ceremony followed by a whist drive at 8pm. This is the building which is now called the Small Hall, and already by 1926 the vicar comments “the Hall in point of size has proved that it is inadequate. We could fill one three times its size during the cooler days of the year for entertainments, etc. The Annual Fete is the occasion when we make the biggest effort of the year to raise funds that will extend the present building to the size we require.” In fact, the congregation of St Andrew’s waited until 1961 for the Large Hall to be built!
In June 1932 a church bell was hung at St Andrew’s, dedicated by the Rev C W O Jenkyn. At the same time a newsletter was pleading for funds to replace the existing system of gas lighting in the church, which was “constantly failing”, by electric lighting. In November 1937 the congregation was raising money for an “electric blowing apparatus” for the organ, as it was installed with a hand pump, which can still be seen in the vestry today.
In October 1939 the incumbent since 1936, Hyla Rose Holden, was called up to serve as a Chaplain to the Forces. In a letter back to the parish in August 1940 he said, ”I am certain the only way that we are going to win this war is on our knees... You have given all your pots and pans to make Spitfires, so now you have less cleaning to do, that will give you an opportunity to spend more time in prayer... How splendid it would be if the chain could be spread and Britain be surrounded every night by a defence of prayer...” Four men of the parish died in the Second World War: Lionel Butler, Frederick Oldland, William Cambridge and Bernard Skinner. A Book of Remembrance was dedicated by the Bishop of Reading in November 1947, with special pages for those who died in service in each of the wars, the list of priests in charge and district wardens, along with a page for each month of the year recording the faithful departed, since the consecration of St Andrew’s. It is displayed at the appropriate page each month.
In 1946 a new High Altar was consecrated by the Bishop of Oxford which, with its furnishings, formed the congregations’ War Memorial and Thankoffering for Peace.
1943 was also the year when the Mother’s Union formed its St Andrew’s branch, with Enrolling Member being Mrs Bowles and Honourable Secretary Mrs Shorter. Their banner, sewn by the nuns of St Catherine’s, was dedicated in 1946, and the members then undertook to supply a new St Andrew’s banner, dedicated on the patronal festival 30th November 1948. In 1947 St Andrew’s Fellowship, a social group of mixed ages, was formed.
In June 1948 the congregation approved plans to build St Andrew’s House, a residence for the priest in charge. This was against the difficult background following the war of very restricted building of private houses. The foundation stone was laid by the Bishop of Reading in 1948, and St Andrew’s House was blessed in 1949.
In 1949 Miss A C Haslam donated a pew and pew front for the North Aisle in memory of Miss Jessie Haslam, a faithful worshipper and devoted worker at St Andrew’s, There were new communion benches each carrying three shields of arms, and the choir removed to the west end of the church. All these improvements were during the time, 1943 to 1951, when Sidney Doran was priest in charge. In 1950 he married a parishioner, Miss June Parrott.
In 1955 St Andrew’s Guild of St Raphael branch was set up with the Chaplain being Rev Derek Eastman and the Branch Secretary Hilda Hodges. Their banner was designed and worked in 1998.
In 1956 the stone wall around the church was built, donated by S J Marks.
In 1961, with the 50th anniversary of St Andrew’s, at last the New Hall was built and dedicated by Canon Hewitson Nash.
In 1963 the Young Wives group set up Wednesday Playgroup sessions. The teacher was Gladys Fowles, the nuses Olive Price, Jane Steer, Alison Parmenter. Olive Price returned for a visit from Perth Australia in 1996. The playgroup was established for 5 mornings a week in 1968, with nine children and three voluntary helpers. In 1964, the Parish Magazine was replaced by the Caversham Bridge.
In 1968 the Rt Rev Trevor Huddleston, Bishop of Stepney visited to open the Summer Fair, held in aid of Wellclose Square Fund.
Between 1963 and 1985 (and beyond), kneelers were embroidered to replace the original leather ones. The first was the long kneeler now in the Lady Chapel, which was designed by Gladys Butler. Major Strange instructed some members of the Mother’s Union in the art of embroidery to work on this. Both women and men worked on and designed the kneelers, and they were made up by Robert Kitcher. In 1983 and 1986 the organ was improved with two stops.
On 1st March 1989 the parish of all Caversham was divided up and St Andrew’s became a parish church with a vicar – the incumbent Rev William B Carpenter (1988-99) – rather than a priest in charge.
The Fisherman Café was started in Spring 2011 in the Small Hall, operating every Thursday afternoon and evening. In June 2011 a grand piano was bought to encourage the church to be used and hired as a venue for concerts.
In 2011 St Andrew’s celebrated its Centenary with a wide-ranging programme of worship and music, an art exhibition and of course the Centenary Timeline Exhibition, which was the basis for this review, and whose exhibits are collected in a scrapbook for all to enjoy.
The involvement of the Hissey family with St. Andrews is obvious throughout the church. To name but a few, the beautiful big west window, the smaller south facing windows, the organ, pews, alter
cross, lectern etc. I shall never forget the day upon visiting the church for the first time in 2006 when I came across all of these memorials commemorating my ancestors. You see, we as a family
never knew of the existence of St. Andrews and what an important role it played in the lives of our earlier Hissey family.
I am a direct descendant of William and Amy Hissey who are commemorated in the big west window in St. Andrews. William was born on Chequers Farm in Stokenchurch in 1816. He was the son of William Hissey born 1777 who was a descendant of a long line of Hisseys in Longworth Oxfordshire who I and fellow researchers have traced to the late 1500’s. William married Amy Gillett on November 19th 1847 in Hughendon. William and Amy were tenant farmers and farmed during the course of their lives in West Wycombe, Stokenchurch, Compton Surrey and in the latter years on Norcott Farm in Tilehurst where William died in 1881. William’s wife Amy outlived her husband by nearly 30 years. After the death of William, his wife Amy remained on Norcott farm with her daughters Mary and Amy. Her son Henry Childs Hissey also lived on the farm. From memorials and plagues in St. Michaels Church Tilehurst, I have been able to establish that whilst the family lived in Tilehurst they played an active role within the church and congregation there. Amy and her daughters remained on Norcott farm until 1894 after which they moved to their new home, 41 (Warren Towers) St. Peters Avenue, Caversham Heights. Her son Henry Childs remained on Norcott Farm where he was a very successful farmer and owned brickworks located opposite the farm. Henry Childs died at the very young age of 39 on a train travelling from Oxford to Reading on May 16th 1900.
Upon studying records of St. Andrews I have learnt that a church fund was started for the building of a new church in Caversham in 1909. Amy and her daughters Mary and Amy were all benefactors and donated funding toward the build. Mary was part of the building committee which consisted of about 22 members. The building work of St. Andrews started in 1910 and was completed in April 1911 – and the total cost of the building was just over five and a half thousand pounds. On April 29th 1911 St. Andrews Church was consecrated by Francis Paget Lord Bishop of Oxford and Reverend Cleaver the Rector of the Parish.
Sadly Amy Hissey Senior and her daughter Amy (a spinster) never lived to see the finished St. Andrews as they both died the year building work started in 1910.
Amy’s daughter Mary remained in Caversham and St. Andrews for many years. She lived at Warren Towers until 1946/7 when she sold the property and moved in with her godson (my G/Grandfather) William Charles James Hissey in Sindlesham. Mary died a spinster in 1949 and left a sizeable estate to her godchildren and other family members. She requested in her will to have her funeral service at St. Andrews and to be buried in Tilehurst with her sister Amy and her parents William and Amy.
From what I have been told and stories that have come down the generations we know that Mary (daughter of William & Amy) was a very religious lady. She travelled the world and is said to have gone on a windjammer with the bishop. I have been unable to establish whether this rumour is true. We know from diaries and letters that she travelled to Israel and bequeathed very generously in her will to several charities all over the world.
Florence, also commemorated on some of the plaques and windows within St. Andrews was the daughter of William and Amy. She was born in 1859 and died at the age of 11 in 1870 of measles she suffered from for two days.
William Dewe Hissey – the first child born to William and Amy Hissey left England for Australia in 1887. He lived there up to his death in 1933. He had several children of which his descendants now live in Australia.
James, the third child born to William and Amy is my direct ancestor. He was the father of William Charles James Hissey where Mary lived out her last days in Sindlesham. William Charles James’ son James is my grandfather who left England and established himself a life and a farm in the British Colony of Kenya.
I am the first descendant from William and Amy Hissey who can call England home again. I live in Kent with my husband and two children. My father still lives in Africa and will probably remain there until his last days.
Mrs. Janina Hedger (née Hissey) March 2008