In the twenty years between 1861 and 1881 the population of Caversham doubled. People were drawn to the area to take advantage of Reading’s thriving industries including biscuit making, seed selling and brewing.
The parish church of St Peter and the chapel at Emmer Green were unable to cope with the numbers attending Sunday service, so the decision was taken to build a new church in Lower Caversham, St John the Baptist.
A plot of land was chosen, part of Bryant’s Farm and building work began on 24 September 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee,
The church was built of flint with stone dressings in the Early English style by Wheeler Bros, under the direction of the architect, Mr Warren and was consecrated on 8 November 1888. The architect also designed the chancel screen, the font and the organ case. The organ was built by F. H. Browne of Deal and was dedicated on St John’s Day 1889.
We have recently learned that the chairs were made by West and Collier, Church Furniture makers of Hambleden, Henley-on-Thames.
The west window and the Lady Chapel window were given in memory of members of the Radcliffe family, generous benefactors of the church. The east window was a thank offering, given in 1897 by parishioners and friends, for the work of the Vicar and first priest in charge. A brass plate by the West door commemorates Mary Martha Mitchell, caretaker of the church from its dedication until her death in 1920. The war memorial and rood cross, given by the congregation in 1921, honour those who died in the First World War, including nine members of the Bible class.
Outside the church is a Garden of Remembrance, with a stone statue of the pelican in her piety added in the 1980s.