Newtown in a new century – 1900 through to 2000

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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)
Newtown in a new century – 1900 through to 2000
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5 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.



  3. Kennet Pilgrim writes:

    Hi There.
    Beware of what Terry states as fact and published in his book.
    May be printer errors but one expects a ‘devoted researcher’ to check the pre-print drafts.
    I am only a newcomer to Newtown, but can spot the deliberate errors.

    Page 20. Terry declares that these canalside cottages are Awbrey Cottages.
    There was an Aubrey Cottage but this was one of the two set back buildings at the bottom end of Awbrey Terrace. The painted sign on 126 Kennetside says Albert Cottages as does the Postal Services Map. A bit weathered but readable even on the published photo. The original would have been clearer.
    Note the footpath sign at the end of the chestnut fencing marking the narrow pathway up to the True Patriot. and Orts Road.

    On page 61 Terry advises this is the lane running from the end of Albert Road down to the Fishermans Cottage with the Reading Marine Boathouse in the background.
    The stone wall was a well known ‘landmark’ outside the True Patriot, and was well watered over the years.

    The wall down the lane alongside No1 Albert Road was of pillared brick. The lane itself was wide enough for the beer dray to visit the tow path. The view on the North Kennet Bank would be of the Gas fractioner towers. not of Reading Marine.
    The Page 61 picture is very obviously the footpath down alongside Albert Cottages from the True Patriot. The leanto is part of the remains of 126 Kennetside.
    Unfortuanately Terry has not published a picture of the True Patriot that maybe would have shown the Blackbird and Clock carving.

    On Page 156 , I am not sure that this precinct was ever called Albert Place. It is currently called Arthur Place.
    On page 158, one can see doors under the balcony. It seems this is a service cupboard and cycle store and not stepped access to the river.
    Note the damp problems from the faulty foundations of the new build, and the salt line on the walls.

    The steps down to the river outside no 12 have now been closed off to reduce nefarious through traffic.

    BUT Terry has delivered a very useful pictorial record of a moment in time when the 1840’s Orts road was about to tranition from Victorian to Elizabethen planning.



  4. Kennet Pilgrim writes:

    The query about the TT end of newtown is noted
    Only the Eastgate was East of Cumberland Road, but yet to be verified.
    An establishment called the Roebuck has been suggested, that served weak beer, within the Quaker precinct, maybe against redeemable tokens.
    Seeking furthur info.



  5. Kennet Pilgrim writes:

    Speed 1650 reported a New Inn at Cemetry Junction, and a New Farm on the pike road to Maidenhead maybe farming the Broken Brow.

    The London Pike Road was originally partially called the New Road, and maybe the New Inn derived from this, as did New Farm.
    New Farm House was situ between what is now the junction of Liverpool Road with London Road, and the Railway bridge. The railway separated the farm from the bulk of its land, which became Suttons Seed plantation. The farm subsequently was renamed the London Road Farm.

    The New Inn may have been a Coaching Inn and subsequently became the Marquis of Granby. Some confirmation research required to verify.

    Broken Brow is the Field system that is found beyound the Orts Farm Estate, and between the New Farm Estate alongside the River.

    Definition and source of term Broken Brow is sought.
    Old English from saxon times suggests that “brocen” means rough and broken rocky ground. Old English “beorg”, refers to a hill. Not very useful as neither term fits a flood plain area.

    Is this a family name?

    Musings welcome



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