THE PARISH OF KIDMORE END & SONNING COMMON
The parishes in this part of Oxfordshire run ‘from the wood to the water’, from the beech woods down to the Thames. In the clearings, settlements arose and one such is Kidmore End. In the middle of the 19th century, Kidmore End was in the Parish of Caversham (then in Oxfordshire) and it was Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, who decided that a church be built in that village, a daughter church to Caversham St Peter.
The laying of the foundation stone was in September 1851 and the building consecrated by Bishop Wilberforce in September 1852. The John Marshall Caversham Charity was a major benefactor and the Charity asked that it be in the name of St John the Baptist. The first Curate-in-Charge set about raising money for a school, which had always been part of the overall plan, and Kidmore End School opened in 1858; Church and School remain closely connected.
In 1868, there was a resolution to make Kidmore End a parish in its own right and land was ceded by Sonning St Andrew and Caversham St Peter – and the Parish of Kidmore End became a reality. This fact is commemorated by the arms of St Andrew and St Peter being part of the decoration on the pulpit. The Curate-in-Charge became the first Vicar and set about raising the money to build a Vicarage.
The population of the parish initially was 525 but began to increase, especially in Sonning Common, and by 1914, the Vicar had written to Oxford in support of the building of a church. At that time, there were several Free Church chapels in the district, but those wishing to worship in the Church of England attended either St John the Baptist or All Saints’ Peppard.
Nothing more happened until Sibella Bonham-Carter donated a piece of land in Sedgewell Road and the Revd John Yorke Barber obtained a second hand hut and, suitably furnished, it was opened for worship – by which time, Father Yorke had had to retire. Therefore, the building of the new church fell to the new vicar, Father John Macdonald Smith. Father Yorke had wanted the church dedicated in the name of St Francis but, in the end, it became the Church of Christ The King. It was Dedicated and the altar and font Consecrated by Harry Carpenter, Bishop of Oxford in March 1967.
By the late 1990s, the population of the parish stood at somewhere between 6,000 and 6,500, all but 1,500 of whom lived in Sonning Common, so it was decided to petition the Bishop of Oxford that the name of that village be added, which was done under seal in February 2000..
In 1970, the Church of Christ The King was extended and then in 2007, fully refurbished. Christ The King was created as a ‘church centre’ and its halls are widely used by the community. The church meeting room that was added in 2007 was named after John Yorke Barber, whose vision the building had been.
St John the Baptist was for worship in the catholic tradition of the Church of England, as was Christ The King. That tradition has varied over the years but today is settled at ‘village catholic’. St John the Baptist is a Victorian gem and, in marked contrast, Christ The King is modern in design.
In 2002, pastoral re-organisation required the vicar to become priest-in-charge of Rotherfield Peppard, an adjacent, almost overlapping parish, and on 1 June 2003, by Order in Council, the last Vicar of Kidmore End & Sonning Common became the first Rector of Rotherfield Peppard and, Kidmore End & Sonning Common – the parishes remaining administratively separate and distinct.