Our first Church Recording project has been to research, document and photograph all the memorials, metalwork, stonework, woodwork, textiles, paintings, libraries and windows at St James’ Finchampstead.

Church Records serve a number of practical purposes. They are used by the church authorities as a complete furnishing record, by the police, who can use the accurate descriptions and photographs to identify retrieved stolen artefacts and by other researchers, including family historians and members of the congregation.

A group of 20 volunteers began their journey at St James in 2016. These volunteers have done an amazing job, methodically and meticulously researching and recording all aspects of the church, with small groups focusing on particular aspects such as woodwork, memorials and windows. The team was lead by Branwen Mellors, with Robin Simmons acting as an expert compiler and Philip Hayman as photographer. They were assisted throughout by the congregation at St James, with particular help and advice being provided by Olive Butchart, Church Archivist, Ed Sampson, Church Warden and Nicola Maddocks.

The team have now created a single illustrated bound volume, which was presented to the Rector, Julie Ramsbottom, and congregation of St James’ Finchampstead on Sunday 21st July 2019 at their Patronal service. Electronic copies will be sent to the V&A National Arts Library, Church Care, Historic England and the local Berkshire record office.

The team had never undertaken this type of work before but in taking part, they have developed new skills and made new friends in the process. Now the work of describing St James has been completed, there are plans to consider another project in the local area.

Church Recording is one of the community strands undertaken by The Arts Society. It began back in the 1970’s when the V&A became aware of the vulnerability of the contents of many churches to damage and loss and sought the assistance of NADFAS, as was, to produce detailed inventories of that heritage before it was too late.

To date almost 2,000 churches have been examined, researched and recorded by The Arts Society throughout the country. These records are not only of great use to antiquarians, genealogists and historians but are greatly valued by church communities.