Newtown in a new century – 1900 through to 2000

tags: , , , ,

The wendy house is south of Cemetery junction. Newtown is north of cemetery juntion. My neighbour! Several friends live in Newtown. I bump into them when shopping in the local Co-op or in the local Abbot Cook pub.

The Newtown area appears to be described by being bounded by:

  • North: the Great Western Railway (GWR)
  • South: Kings Rd / London Rd
  • East: A4 railway bridge
  • West: Forbury Rd

According to Wendy Hobson (1995), cited on the Reading Forum:

It was jointly owned and developed by John Sutton and George Palmer for their workers and by the 1870/80’s extended up to Cholmeley Rd, from there across to the railway was Suttons planted areas – this was then developed in the late 1800’s early 1900’s

It includes a beautiful primary school that looks much as it would have done when it was originally built in 1864.

Natural Gas StorageOne of the most striking visual features of the area is a disused gas storage tower that can be seen from the river Kennet, the train lines, and at the northern end of cumberland road. It’s diagonally opposite the Jolly Anglers pub. I find it strangely beautiful and peaceful. An architectural sculpture.

NewtownThe remaining original housing in this area is mainly small terraced house’s with walled gardens and narrow back lanes.  What I’d call ‘2-up, 2-downs’. Houses where you walk from the street, or forecourt, through the front door into a front room.  A staircase goes to 2 bedrooms and the 2nd room downstairs was originally the kitchen where the fire was used to heat water for a tin bath. The toilet was outside the house – at the bottom of the garden.  Newtown clearly includes some larger homes with forward facing gables more bedrooms, front gardens and downstairs hallways.

Many of the buildings nearer downtown, to the East, were knocked down and redeveloped as social housing in the mid 1970s. Coinciding with the closure of the Huntley andPalmer business.

The areas north of the Kennet and south of the Thames were developed with both private apartments for London commuter set and more modern social housing. It looks like this happened in the 1980s and 90s.

There are only 2 pubs in the Newtown area. they sit on the river (kennet) bank and look like they may pre-date Newtown. Perhaps being built to serve the canal traffic that would pass this way between London and Bristol. The pubs are:

  • Fishermans cottage
  • Jolly Angler

The Abbot Cook is on the borderlands, effectively south of Newtown and in either the “University District” or possibly “Earley

Fisherman's Cottage Jolly Anglers

Fishermans cottageRumour cited on Reading forums suggests that:

The story went that H&P realising that the workers, not being quite so ‘religious’ would go to the pub anyway, and rather than have the drunk / hung-over they would control it. They supposedly gave out rationed tokens as part of the salary that could be exchanged for a limited amount of drink. Enough to wet the whistle but not get drunk!

Note to self – must get a copy of: Terry Allsop’s “NEWTOWN A Photographic Journey in Reading 1974″ Two Rivers Press (cover photo at top of page)

2 bits of lovely banter on “Newtown in a new century – 1900 through to 2000”

  1. wendy writes:

    John, the Gas towers you refer to are on the South side of the Kennet – they are still in use. This one is on the North side of the Kennet – nearby but definitely not in use.
    The Original Brewery that lead to the Beer, Bulbs and Biscuit phrase was Simonds Brewery (17985) – which appears to have been on the Oracle site for some time. Simonds merged with Courage in the 1960s



  2. Terry Allsop writes:

    Hi Wendy. You are right about the gasometers (gasholders) the one shown on your photograph is the one from which I took the “aeriel” photographs in my book. I don,t know if you have now got a copy but the gasometers are shown on page 10 and it is the one nearest to the river. Regarding the redevelopment, there are some historical references in the Foreword by David Cliffe and in my Introduction, particularly in connection with the public houses! There is a section in the book devouted to them. A coincidence about Simonds Brewery is that I joined the Architects Dept in about 1960/61 around the time of the Courage takeover. I haven’t many photographs of the brewery but will (try to) forward a scanned copy of one taken from Dukes Bridge by e.mail which you may find interesting. One other fact about the houses on Kennetside is they have 2 postal addresses, (up to Rupert Street), apparently it was to enable the postal/delivery services to gain access from the “back side” of the dwellings as Kennetside was very restricted in width. Terry.



share your wonderful musings

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image