Over 30 years ago I was asked by Canon Edward Conway to do some research and write a short history about St James’ Parish. In 2011, with the 175th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone approaching, the current Parish Priest, Canon John O’Shea, inaugurated an archive group in the Parish and once again I was asked to write about the events leading up to this important historical event.


I was soon joined in these researches by my wife, Lindsay. She is a fluent French speaker and much of the documentation is in French. We also travelled to France in the course of our work. As readers of our book Reformation, Revolution and Rebirth will discover much of the early material is in French and of course, AW Pugin was of French descent and spent much of his childhood in Normandy.

The Church is built in the grounds of the ancient Benedictine Abbey of Reading. Almost from its onset the Abbey was dedicated to St. James and developed connections with the pilgrimage route to St James of Compostela in Spain.

Ever since the Middle Ages the scallop shell has been the symbol of those going on pilgrimage to the shrine of St James in Compostela, Spain.


For these reasons the scallop shell became integrated into the arms of the town of Reading and subsequently into those of the University.


It seemed most appropriate, therefore, to name the new publishing imprint SCALLOP SHELL PRESS. The shell became a metaphor for the journey, the grooves representing the many ways of arriving at one’s destination. At a practical level the shell was also useful for scooping up water to drink or food to eat. The staffs represent those carried by the pilgrim together with sacks for daily sustenance. The cross is said to have its elongated spike so that the traveller could plant it in the ground.


Scallop Shell Press aims to publish works which, like the grooves of the shell, will offer the modern pilgrim stories of our shared humanity and help readers arrive at their own meaningful interpretations of life. We hope that our books will be shells within whose covers readers will find an intellectual and spiritual source of sustenance for their own personal pilgrimages.