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A church has stood on the site of St Laurence since 1121 - the year that Reading Abbey was founded. In fact St Laurence sits at what was once the entrance to the Abbey, but was not part of it, being establsihed as a church for the people of the town. It was enlarged to its present size in 1196, and was extensively rebuilt in the 15th century. Inside is a memorial to the 17th century mathematician, John Blagrave.
During the afternoon of 10th February 1943 the church was extensively damaged when two bombs were dropped by a lone German aircraft mounting a raid on the town - it is thought the intended target was the railway yards to the north-east. The raid, by far the worst on Reading during the Second World War and the only one which resulted in fatailties, damaged the fabric of the building and destroyed all the coloured glass. Part of the tracery from the west window has been re-erected in the churchyard, to serve as a memorial to that fateful day.
Another unusual memorial in the churchyard is that to Henry West, a young labourer who lost his life when he was blown from the roof of Reading Station, which he was helping to build, during a freak gust of wind in March 1840. His workmates placed a memorial made of wooden railway sleepers on his grave, and ever since then his memorial has been a wooden one, replaced when necessary - the present one dates from 1971.
In 2001 the church dramatically chaged its mission, and now seeks to encourage the young people of Reading to come to faith. This involves extensive activites outside the church and in the communities of Reading.
The church's website
St Laurence, Reading.
Tracery from the former west window, re-erected in the churchyard after being damaged during the Second World War.
The wooden memorial to Henry West.