By the 18th century, Reading was a rarity among the small towns of southern England (along with Winchester & Havant) in that it
had a Catholic congregation. The faith had been kept alive by the landed families and through the ministry of French priests.
The local Catholic families were the 'Englefields',
who had a residence at White Knights and the 'Wheble'
family at Bulmershe. The former left the area in 1780, but before leaving, Sir Harry Englefield founded and Endowment for a permanent mission,
(as the parishes were then known) and so the first parish in Reading dates from that year.
From 1794 the mission was serviced by five French priests who, during the unrest in France, came to live there. One, Abbe de la Balardiere,
became the chaplain of the Wheble family. The Catholics of the area were then able to attend Mass at the chapel on the Bulmershe estate.
Soon plans were well under way to open the church at St James.
It was built in the grounds of the ruined Reading Abbey.
This ground was owned by James Wheble and the church was built almost entirely at his expense. The foundation was laid on 14th December 1837 and the church
opened in August 1840, two weeks after his death.
St James remained the only church in Reading to the beginning of this century. In 1904 Canon Le Grave built
St William of York
in Upper Redlands Road (though this remained part of St James' parish). Priests from St James said Mass in a variety of places (in this area in the 1940's)
These included St Peter's church hall and the old cricket pavilion in church road (where, first you had to clear away the beer glasses left from the previous
In 1946 St James' parish was divided up to make the new parishes of St William of York, St John Bosco in Woodley and Christ the King in Northumberland Avenue.
After living in various digs, Fathers Lane & Donnelly (serving St John Bosco and St William of York respectively) purchased a house in Whiteknights Road and Father
Lane said Masses in the 'Long room' there for the people of Earley. Father Lane soon built, with the aid of volunteer labour, a church in Woodley and then (as there was
serious talk at the time of combining Woodley and Earley with St William of York) on the land here at Earley crossroads (with a view to it becoming the focal point of
In 1965 the Earley Catholic Church Development Society was formed. Its aim, to build a church as a pre-requisite to the formation of an Earley parish. Its task, to raise
the funds to do so. This it proceeded to do by membership subscriptions and a system of lettings to the hall, together with bazaars, fetes and whist drives etc
Despite these efforts however, in 1970 the Diocese decided that the Earley area with its church hall and activities would be joined with St William of York. This only
lasted two years, for following a Diocesan Boundary Commission recommendation in 1972. Earley was finally made into a separate parish of its own and so the parish of Our
Lady of Peace was 'born'.
Fr Vincent Flanagan was appointed parish priest and, after taking up temporary residence in Our Lady's Hostel in Wokingham road, he moved to a flat in St Peter's road,
until eventually a house was bought in Aldbourne Avenue.
In 1975 the foundations of the church were laid and finally in 1976 the church opened ... 24 years after Mass was first said in the hall.