28 October 2022


The Church of Holy Trinity, Reading, was formerly the very Protestant proprietary chapel which owed its later adornment to Fr Brian Brindley. I am told by friends that the pulpit in 'Georgian' baroque was thrown out of the City Church of All Saints in Oxford when Old Mother Damnable flogged it to Lincoln College for a library. The screen, from Pugin's Cathedral in Birmingham, was thrown out when the papists depuginised that building. The retro-altar was the famous Belgian baroque altar with the reversible tabernacle from (a one-time daughter church of S Thomas's) S Paul's Walton Street in Oxford, thrown out when OMDamnable sold it to the entertainment industry. Also once in S Paul's was the monumental scagliola-like portico-style entrance into the church from the Sacristy. And in the North Chapel was the baroque altar inscribed 'PAX' from the ballroom at Nashdom, which, when that House was our principal Benedictine Abbey, will often have been used by our great scholar, wit, and mystagogue Dom Gregory Dix. The shell of the building now stands, lonely, surrounded by buildings with the names like The Blavatnik School of Government.

The service was mixed; a sermon in a very rasping voice by the then bishop of Dorchester, who, they tell me, was once one of us but, like so many of that generation lot of episcopabili, changed his mind on The Issue not so very long before he got the letter from Downing Street. He later scarpered to Chelmsford and now has an address in Bishops Auckland. He tried to ingratiate himself to his hearers by basing his homily upon the Pope Benedict's Year of the Priest. This provided a happy opportunity for thirty-or-so birettas to flutter above thirty-or-so heads at every use of the nomen sacrum 'Benedict'. His accent took me back to my childhood in Essex. Yes, I am an Essex Boy too, from those selfsame marshes, and proud of it, but I don't feel the need to flaunt it whenever I open my mouth. Bishop Andrew's face remained totally impassive when Reading referred to him as his "beloved brother".

The Mass was Novus Ordo, very much Reform-of-the-Reform (remember all that?) with the Canon Romanus covered, except for qui pridie, by the singing of Sanctus and Benedictus.

I don't think PF would have felt at home.

My memories are imperfect, but I think we may have had Drinks.


Greyman 82 said...

I was a parishioner of Holy Trinity, Reading ("Holy Brindley" as another local parson nicknamed it) for a few months. This included Father Brindley becoming an honorary canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. I was on the parish charabanc trip to the cathedral to see Father Brindley transform into Canon Brindley, an occasion for his further adornment with a monsignor's cassock, which was a gift from the parish. Amongst the furniture, fixtures and fittings in Holy Trinity are the pews acquired from Ss. Philip & James, Woodstock Road, Oxford (Phil & Jim's in the Oxford lingo, I believe). The pews arrived at Holy Trinity in the winter of 1985/86 - I know because I was there, providing some of the "muscle" to shift them around and into place.

Father Graeme Rowlands was the curate in those days, a delightful chap, often seen in the streets around in his cassock and soutane hat.

But after few months and a literally sleepless night, I decided I had to move to the Roman Catholic Church and my brief time at Holy Trinity was over. From then on it was English Martyrs, Reading, very much an Irish-dominated parish. It is Cardinal Murphy-Connor's home parish. What one endured there included the Novus Ordo, communion in the hand and altar girls! But it was in full communion with the See of Peter and the Bishop of Rome. That outweighed any other consideration for me. I was pleased to join the ordinariate c. four years ago after suffering the banality and mediocrity of contemporary Catholic liturgy for over 30 years.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Dear Greyman 82,

What a truly lovely reply! Does one discern by your username that you are perhaps a Franciscan tertiary?

Such a testimony of the action of Grace is a joy to read, and lovely to see, that for all its (grave) faults, the Anglican Church can still be a means of grace for random travellers on this earthly pilgrimage from all over the globe. May it continue to bring souls to the threshold of the path of Salvation!

Fr Rowlands continues unchanged, which is both a joy and concern. North London is familiar with his soutane and saturno! Even in the supermarket. Pray he follow in your pious footsteps! He fails to see how much he would love it. So much better, a thousandfold, than St Silas Kentish Town.

One slight correction, with apologies, it is "Pip and Jim". The English are deeply disrespectful, a German friend was recently truly shocked by this familiar nickname!

Greyman 82 said...

Hello Josephus,

Thank you for your reply to my comment. I stand corrected on the nickname for Ss. Philip & James, Oxford, and on the word for the hat I saw Father Rowlands wearing: the hat is a saturno and the cassock is a soutane.

My username is not in fact based on any association with the Franciscans. I was an undergraduate at Grey College in the University of Durham. In those all-male days, its students were known as Greymen. I matriculated (joined the college) in 1982, so it's Greyman82.

On disrespectful names for things I once heard an Anglican priest refer to his church's collection of chalices, patens etc as "the pots and pans"!

Bill Murphy said...

Father John,

Many thanks for another reminder of Brian Brindley (aka The Loose Canon) and all his architectural works. His numerous obituaries were all the more enjoyable for the minor discrepancies. Whereabouts in his lavish Last Supper did he expire? Was it between the bouef en cruet and the drest (dressed??) crab, or some other pair of sumptuous courses? My parish priest at St James, next door to Reading Prison, hugely enjoyed Brian's presence at a service of Christian Unity, when he appeared in vestments fit for a Papal Coronation. Apparently Brian used to buy all these splendid garments for peanuts at the flea markets in Paris - they had been dumped by French clergy in a post-Vatican II frenzy.