Sampo is the Queen of the Wendy House Orangerie. Here we see her surveying her Queendom, making sure the rug doesn’t escape and no unanticipated guests can sneak in through the new French doors. Sampo doesn’t trust those French doors.
scribbles tagged ‘homestead history’
I bought my first sofa aged 31 in 1994. At £899.00 it was a BIG purchase. Only the house and car cost more. We visited many sofa shops, we asked friends, we searched online. I saved up for a year and we used interest free credit for 3 years. It was a cast iron frame, hand made, sofa bed. I loved that sofa, it was so comfortable, in forest green, mustard and rust colours. The sofa moved several houses with me and eventually went to Seattle.
After 10 years of intensive use, in 2004, it looked its age. The arms had faded, the pattern was dated. It was still awesome to sit and sleep on, but I’d tired of it. I tried selling it on Craigslist as an imported, handmade classic British sofa. But even for $50.00, there were no takers. Eventually I got to a point where I was grateful that someone just took it away. It left to adorn a nice fellow’s mountain cabin porch where his Great Dane would enjoy lounging on it.
I’ve procrastinated on buying another sofa since then. 10 years of procrastinating, that deserves some kind of award. Close friends have pointed out that a front room without a comfortable sofa is not really good enough. I’ve got individual chairs, I’ve got a 17th century ‘Settle’, I’ve got a love seat. There are places to ‘sit’ comfortably. But a sofa seems a social necessity.
Since moving back to the UK I’ve been searching. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to my search for a sofa. I’ve sat and bounced on sofa’s in stores, on my own and with friends. This has helped me to refine my awareness of my sofa purchase criteria to:
- Enough room for a cat to run underneath it
- Enough room for a vacuum cleaner to run underneath it
- Classic or innovative design
- A tight proportion of seat-space to sofa-size. No big arms or areas not used for sitting-on
- Plush, something that says ‘luxury’
- I can fall asleep on it (sat-upright and lying down)
- It can fit through my cottage front door and round the immediate hallway corner
- Must tone in with my golden and orange Persian rug
Finally I took my credit card to Bright of Nettlebed and commissioned a 2.5 seated Coleridge with claw and ball mahogany legs, feather seat cushions. The photograph was taken in the Nettlebed showroom. I’ve placed my choice of fabric over the back. The gold is a thick thread that has a delicate pattern as part of the weave using different textures. The orange thread is thick, like a dense chenille. It reminds me of the
- Designs of Charles Rene Macintosh
- Warmth of fire
- Symmetry of Japanese designs
- Gentle curves of nature.
The sofa will arrive in August… …when they’ve made it.
Estate Agent #1
- This is the only other coach house on sale in the area, one more bedroom but no garden or off-road parking
- Buyers can find out what you paid for this house, and when you bought it
- I had to explain to my Indian client what a coach house was, he just didn’t understand
- Someone will walk into the garden and fall in love with this place before they’ve even got through the door (Indeed, that’s what happened to me)
- Oh! That bath…
- We’ve never had a problem showing houses to people with cat allergies, we did have one client bitten by an owner’s dog. The dog had been locked in the garden and the client was told not to go into the garden
- I’m from Bristol
Estate agent #2
- This is the most desirable area in Reading
- Double off-road parking is worth around 20K
- We don’t get many character properties like this downtown
- I’m from Bristol
Estate agent #3
- I can tell you what the other agents said (he did, and he was wrong)
- Fantastic (repeatedly, like a carbon copy of his colleague that I spoke to on the phone)
- What a fantastic kitchen
- Our website is new and really good, it’s got pictures of the founding partners on it
- We’ll do a TV presentation for a character property like this one.
I didn’t get the impression that any of them offered anything that would add any real value over the property details and access to buyers that have been pre-screened for a mortgage. None of them really told me about their access to the type of people that would like to buy the Wendy house. I suggested excluding:
- couples planning to start a family – dangerous staircase, downstairs bathroom
- elderly people or planning for this to be a last, retirement, home – dangerous staircase, downstairs bathroom
- people over 5″8 – low beam crossing the dangerous staircase
- people that love to cook – tiny kitchen separated from the dining area by the hallway
Estate agent #1 was the least offensive, arrogant. She listened and related to me as a person most effectively. Maybe I’ll have to make my own promotional materials pack – showing related documentation from my purchase, guarantees on work done, local service professionals etc
Based on a light weight trend analysis, I suspect I might be moving home this year.
- 86-93 home in Loughborough (including a year living in Edinburgh with my Mortgage, weekend place, in Loughborough).
- 93-20 home in Hampshire (Southsea then Warblington).
- 00-07 home in Seattle (Redmond, I meant to move downtown but somehow never got round to it).
- 07 -14 home in Reading town (intending to stay here for a while yet, but the trend suggests otherwise).
Flicking these white plastic switches had no effect on the lights they’re supposed to control. Unscrewing the faceplate showed that a small piece of plastic that acted as a ‘catch’ for the switch was broken. I needed to replace the faceplate and switch mechanism.
All the light switches in the Wendy House are the same style. Another one feels like it will break soon, frequently failing to work. I wanted to replace all of them with switches that have a firm action, are well made mechanically, are good looking, compliment the House style. I took my design brief to a local retail DIY store.
The switches were displayed to show their faceplate, they were packaged in a way that prevented me seeing the mechanical action, materials and quality. Darn.
I chose flat, reflective-nickel, switches. Black to compliment the old oak beams in my ceiling and wrought Iron door furniture. Black to make the switches easier to see against the light walls in the dark when I’m fumbling to turn them on. Unfortunately, the behind the scenes mechanism is deeper than the back-fittings of my old plastic switches. Replacing them was not just a process of swapping the plates and re-wiring. The masonry drill came out and the wall hole had to be made deeper. A bigger job than anticipated. Why aren’t switch box sizes a standard? Pah!
Now I’m loving my new sleek nickel switches, they have a very pleasing action with a good ‘thunk’ when they fall.
A temporary break in the flood production system. No rain this morning.
Laundry to be washed and dried. No modern tumble-drier accessories. My laundry its catching some rare sun rays in the Wendy House wind-swept garden.
Extra ballast had been added to the ‘airer’ to prevent it attempting a take-off garden tour. Bricks.
The ships that carried lumber from Seattle to San Francisco, to build the beautiful houses there, carried stone back to Seattle as ballast to weight the ships appropriately on the return journey. The stone was used to build many of the Historic buildings in the Pioneer square area of Seattle. Awesome.
The RSPCA has warned that cats are likely to take-off in these strong winds. Despite her own substantial personal ballast, Sampo’s a cautious cat.
Sampo’s not risking any unplanned flights.
French doors? According to internet gossip, the French have a reputation for not being very good at keeping out invaders and these doors have big windows so invaders can see what to steal and they are easy for burglars to open, not very secure.
The cool air from the Orangerie, in the winter, is drawn around the heavy drapes by the warm air from the wood burner rising up the stairs to the hayloft in the North wing (bedrooms). A draught. On cold winter days the drapes stay closed to trap the warmth in the main living space where I lurk like vampire afraid of daylight. This won’t do if Mum’s going to be visiting this winter. Costing on ugly UPVC doors were all rather expensive, especially given how ugly they are. I found a carpenter and briefed him with
‘simple, plain design consistent with Victorian period. Wrought iron hinges and door furniture, bevelled edge glass, that’s the one fancy thing I want’
His sketch captured the ethos well. True to French insecurity, no locks on these internal doors. It took a week for the carpenter to make the doors and 2 days full of sawdust to install them. It took me a day to put two coats of varnish on them and a day to buy new Voiles and hang them without the use of the irritatingly ineffective superglue and rod solution that the last owners of the Orangerie had installed.
The droughts have been subdued with a beautiful work of art. Daylight has found the front room in winter. Mum can visit.
This year I discovered that cars could legally park in-front of my driveway entrance. I discovered when a person on vacation in the USA left her car across my drive blocking my car in.
I took the bus to work, £25 per week bus fare seemed very expensive, a lot more than the £10 diesel costs. Not knowing when, and if, I’d be able to use my car was very disheartening.
It was also disheartening that a person would choose to block my car in, it seems such a mean spirited thing to do. When I’d knocked on my neighbours doors to see if they knew the car owner, could contact her and ask her to move, they were all wonderfully outraged on my behalf. Some had seen her before, none knew how to contact her. One neighbour offered to park her car so close to the offending car that it would be unable to get out without knocking on neighbours doors. We decided against this potential emotional escalation path, and giggled.
The council wouldn’t put their white lines “Access Protection Lines” (APL) outside my drive until I’d dropped the curb. This is when I discovered that every time I drove in and out of my drive I was breaking the law by driving over the public pathway. Oops. Myself and rather a lot of my neighbours were all breaking the law.
To avoid breaking the law I needed to arrange to drop the curb. To be able to ask the police to remove people parked in front of my drive I needed APL. I gave the council a cheque and some sweet-talk – you know so much, you’re so good at your job, I’m just so ignorant of all these things etc. The road workers were at my place before the cheque had even cleared, 2 days later, at the weekend! Sweet!
- 4 road workers including “Mr. Reading” a local looker. He did compare favourably with Brad Pitt.
- A compact digger
- A truck
- Pick axes, spades and all sorts….
It took them a day to rip-up the pavement, half a day to lay the concrete foundation and half a day to lay the surface tarmac. Less than an hour to paint the APL
Hooray! Confident, legal and easy access to my driveway has been established. Peace of mind
Then, I added a house sign to the mix. The name and number of my home with an arrow to help people see which way to go to find the Wendy House. My neighbour used his cable-less drill to fix it. As he fixed the sign he told me stuff I didn’t know:
- People deliver mail for my house to their house and they then bring it round to my home and post it through my door.
- People knock on their (3B) door to ask where 3A is because it’s clearly not between 3 and 3B.
He’d been suffering without telling me, so English, he was thrilled that I’d decided to put this sign up.
Front of house access sorted.
I reversed onto my drive, with no bumps or bangs as would happen before my dropped curb. Beautifully smooth. A figure in the dark opposite is fiddling with my neighbours door. I get out of the car and can hear the figure cussing.
Wendy: Can I help you?
The elderly lady sounded distressed and talked about how the keys my neighbour had given her weren’t working. I offered her a cup of tea in my place and I’d call my neighbour’s mobile phone. She calmed down and tried the keys again.
Wendy: it probably won’t make any difference, but I’d really like to try the keys.
She gave me the keys and the door unlocked smoothly with absolutely no problem
Wendy: I’m magic
The lady laughed. We exchanged praise of my lovely neighbour and went our separate ways.
I’m magic and available for all your ‘locked-out’ needs
Have NEXT ever put their Self-assembly instructions in front of actual customers, observed them using those instructions to assemble their cupboard, then updated the instructions to remove the big problems?
No. If they had followed this standard good design process then it would have taken me 2 hours, not 4, to construct the cupboard.
The instructions include 17 steps on double-sided, A4, photocopied paper. Before starting these steps NEXT recommend that I check I have all the required parts and the right tools. Because those aren’t steps, I do them before the steps and wonder. What’s a step?
- Has no meaningful title to tell me what I’m achieving. They are an ordered list
- Step one contains a list of 5 numbered things to do, sub-steps? They actually don’t appear to require the order implied by their numbers
- Introduces the concept of a cambolt. What’s that?! It’s not mentioned on the list of fittings or parts that I checked before taking any steps. A quick look at all the other steps shows that I’ll be using a lot of ‘cambolts’ and there’s something on the fittings sheet labelled Ø15 that I have 61 of, next to an unusual style screw that I also have 61 of. I’ll guess that this is a cambolt
- The step tells me what the numbered pieces actually are, 1 is the ‘top panel’, 3 is a side panel, 9 is a ‘rail’, 2 and 5 are legs. Hooray! It’s about preparing the top and back legs to slot into other bits
Here’s step 1 completed in the Wendy house Orangery.
Putting in the cambolts and dowels took about 5 minutes.
Working out what I was supposed to do, interpreting the instructions, took about 10 minutes. 15 minutes per step for 17 steps? This doesn’t bode well. Hopefully I’ll be able to apply learning from step one later down the line, and the steps will be faster.
I got step 1 right. Phew. If only all steps had been this unambiguous…..
The delivery man carried my cupboard on his shoulder. Even before it arrived in my hall I’d realised that it was self-assembly. My heart dropped. At the price charged for the cupboard I hadn’t expected Self-assembly, I hadn’t anticipated spending Saturday morning with a screwdriver. Sigh.
Page 1 of 20 Is the cupboard that difficult to construct?
2 people, as tools, to construct it? I’m offended at being called a tool, I want my cupboard today and my friends, who are not tools may not be available to help me for emergency cupboard assembly….
2 screwdrivers, phew, I’m equipped. Actually I also needed a hammer for inserting dowels and a pair of pliers to removing pieces inserted in the wrong place due to design asymmetry and instruction ambiguity. Now I understand why the sales person was so keen to sell me insurance against getting the furniture scratched.
Helpline?! Goodness, it must be difficult to construct!
This phrase nearly put me off unpacking the box:
“Self-assembly items cannot be returned once assembly is part or fully completed unless the item is found to be faulty“
I wonder how many returns Next get from people like me who didn’t realise self assembly, unlike me are scared by 20 pages of instructions and a ‘helpline’ for something that should be simple, and read this no returns as evidence of difficulty to construct and Next pre-empting, to avoid, arguments with its dissatisfied customers.
Important? they want me to check that they’ve sent me the right bits? Cheeky! They should check they’ve sent me the right parts. They don’t think I should involve my children in the construction process? Do they think I’m a complete idiot, unable to take responsibility for making decisions about my children and taking responsibility for my own poor decisions. Bloody cheek.
About half the text on the front page is NEXT covering it’s back against customer complaints and returns and treating customers as ignorant, irresponsible, or devious. Thanks NEXT
After 5 years of looking for a cupboard this size and shape I wasn’t gong to let these poor first impressions put me off. I started unpacking and gathered my tools… what happened next is another story….
A little space in my entrance hall is aching for a cupboard. I carried a tape-measure in my pocket for 5 years, diligently measuring every small cupboard I encountered. Like Goldilocks uncovering non-conformity problems:
- Too tall – block the hall window light
- Too deep – block the kitchen door opening
- Too wide – block the front door opening
I learned to see ‘wrong size’ at a distance, I stopped measuring and hope gradually dwindled. The space in my hall gradually attracted stacks of practical boxes. As I walked by them I thought ‘crazy box woman’ and sighed. I suspect I’m not alone in feeling a disproportionate pleasure from finding durable, functional, beautiful home storage solutions.
Then while off to buy some food I walked passed this in a shop window display.
It looked right. I got excited as I slipped out my tape-measure to check I wasn’t fantasizing. Yes! It fits just right. It’s sturdy, the colour compliments the room. Purchase made, delivery arranged. What I didn’t check was whether it was self assembly or not, but that’s another 4 hour story….
Maybe I left a candle burning unattended and my whole home is now going up in smoke. My heart sank and I broke into a run. Luckily it was just a garden bonfire in my neighbours garden. I took in my ash-speckled laundry and climbed the wall to talk to my neighbour. A group of people were clearing the badly overgrown garden, I acknowledged their good work and said next time I’d help of they warned me. Then a friend’s face turned up and I discovered that they’d bought the house, so I now have new neighbours who are old friends! Excellent result. Reading town is a small town in many ways.
The next morning I fought procrastination and took a trip to buy some bulbs. At the store I realised that I didn’t know what size or fitting to buy. I plumped for the ‘common’ size and bayonet fitting.
I found a screwdriver to open the sealed bathroom light fitting and a bar stool to stand on, then started fiddling. I managed to open the fitting without breaking the glass cover, remove the blown bulbs, then notice the bulbs were the unusually small screw fittings – not what I’d bought. A quick scout around the house uncovered a couple of small screw fitting bulbs in my bedside table lamps. Phew. Easier to go to bed in the dark than bathe in the dark. Screw fit bulbs in place and bathroom light fitting reconstituted.
Just call me capable. Even without the aid of power tools.
Recently, while downtown purchasing a cushion or 2, curiosity pulled me into the British Heart Foundation Charity furniture shop. I found a court cupboard and a welsh dresser fronted with beautifully carved linen scroll. Bargain price. The British Heart Foundation even took my old ‘modern’ furniture away for free. A modern minimalist somewhere will be thrilled to find my old furniture!
Meanwhile, the Wendy House is looking darker and more Jacobean than James, in Jamestown, drinking Jameson whisky. We’re not on fashion, we are coordinated in our out-of-fashionness. Yummy.
Now I’m looking for a carpenter and a heating engineer. If they talk technical in a friendly tone of voice, and get excited about the unique opportunities I’ll be dangling in front of them. They’ll be in.
Prepare yourselves for some almost interesting home improvement posts before the winter sets in…
The ‘highway maintenance’ team who resurfaced the Avenue (where I live) were all very
- quality focussed – nice job!
- quick – they stuck to schedule despite all sorts of problems like having only half of the pre-ordered tarmac delivered when they were due lay the tarmac
Yay for road workers!
The council processes and staff were more than disappointing. It’s an odd choice to resurface the Avenue, which is a cul-de-sac, rather than one of the more well-used through-routes in Reading town.
The front and back door are next to each other, they’re actually both back doors or both front doors. Almost twins.
Very cute and slightly peeling with their stand against 5 years of rather damp summers.
When I moved into the wendy house (2008), the garden was completely covered in low maintenance and BBQ friendly patio. Bleak. Sitting on the loo with the doors open, produced the sort of view that would induce minimalists’ premature ejaculation. A bit dull.
Now, the vital view from the loo has been cluttered with the sort of frivolity that might lure a Victorian for a brief promenade:
- A slate slab covers the drain-lid and supports pebbles stolen from Pacific and Atlantic beaches
- A black hare keeps an eye on approaching guests
- Rockery shrubs and grasses provide Sampo with delicious hors d’oeuvres
- A Rhus provides shade in summer and colour in autumn
- Honeysuckle and wisteria cover the fence filling the garden with sweet scent and beautiful blooms.
I love my garden, I spend a lot of time there watching the butterflies before Sampo eats them, pulling weeds and contemplating blooms. I still have patio, but the lines are broken by borders full of colourful and scented plants that change with the seasons.
The Avenue is about to get ripped-up and resurfaced. It’s an old bumpy and pot-holed road so this is good. But it’s caused a big kerfuffle amongst residents because of a combination of things including
- No residents road access during the 4 days that the road will be repaired
- Residents given only 3 working days notice of the works
- Some residents have building works, on their house, scheduled to coincide with the road-works. Builders are busy in the summer and rescheduling is difficult, especially if the building works were in preparation for your daughter wedding…
- Several businesses have customer parking that is only accessible via the avenue. These businesses weren’t warned of the work because their address is for their front doors on another road and the council didn’t notice their business access via the Avenue
- The road-markings will be redrawn exactly where they were – which was often in rather silly places. the council isn’t taking the opportunity to re-align the lines that mark driveways with actual driveways. How silly is that?!
I met a huddle of about 6 highway workers having a round of tea this morning. Very nice chatty people. I feel like they’re the only ones in the whole organisational chain that have shown any good common sense, but they’re not planning to put the markings in the right place around my drive….yet….
I’ve also sprinkled Poppy, Campanula and Forget-me-nots here. A couple of each have taken root and I’m hoping they’ll self-re-seed and spread to make a green foliage and blue summer border. A winter Jasmine is also beginning to settle on this border, to add some winter colour. I may try to train a Ceanothus up the wall to add spring colour and winter foliage.
From the drive you open my garden gate to see some more Foxgloves, Ferns, logs, a thriving Ceanothus and a white Wisteria that will eventually cover the woodshed and fencing.
Harry Tuttle wasn’t available, central services turned-up
My home insurance notifies a local heating engineering service. 5 hours later the service calls me to arrange and ‘emergency’ appointment. Emergency means within 24 hours, but no time specified. We agree a visit time – 2 days out
The engineer quickly diagnoses the problem as a broken fan on a common boiler, tells me he’ll phone me when he’s sourced the part to arrange a fitting. He can’t source the part there and then because he need clearance from my insurance company.
5 hours later, no call, I phone my insurance who know about the part and the cost but cannot approve it until the engineer tells them how long he was onsite. They can’t take my word for his time on site. The say they’ll follow up with the engineer.
2 hours later I phone again and find the repair has been approved. The Heating engineering service won’t arrange a visit until they’ve actually picked up the part which will be within the 24 hour period, from approval, that their service contract with my insurer specifies as emergency cover. That’s 24 hours to get the part, not to fit it. They suggest that I call them back in 2 days time if I haven’t heard from them.
Effectively, 6 days after reporting the ‘emergency’ problem to my ‘home emergency insurance’ provider – who subcontract out their service, I will be able to try and arrange a time to have the broken part replaced. UK emergency services are bogged down by organisational bureaucracy. More than 6 days to diagnose and get hold of a replacement broken fan seems rather poor to me. I’m anticipating they wont be able to get an engineer round to fix it within 24 hours of calling me …. …and that I’ll have to chase them with phone calls.
fridge = Not Hot. Not Cold. Silent.
boiler = Not Hot.
wendy = Hot.
This morning I used Victorian methods to wash before dressing. I’m a rufty-tufty kind of a girl in a winter heating crisis. I can leave the milk outside the fridge in the kitchen, confident that it will stay cold in this north facing, unheated room.
Apparently, the ancient combination boiler couldn’t go on without its friend the fridge. Suicide pact.
Not looking forward to the boiler purchase process…
The old fridge that came with the house 5 years ago has just reached too-much-rattling for my liking. Then it had the audacity to add squealing and leaking to its repertoire.
I wish the fridge had given me at least a week’s notice of its impending demise. Maybe sent me a text or a calendar appointment. A week is the time it will probably take to get one delivered, standard delivery. Meanwhile, I’ll improvise….
The Education Act of 1895 made schooling free for all children. Hoorah!
Several schools near the Wendy House were built around this time. The nearest one is where I go to vote, on the Wokingham road. The Alfred Sutton primary school.
Alfred Sutton ran “Sutton and Sons” which was the world’s largest seed firms at the time. Alfred donated 20% of his substantial income to charitable causes. One of these causes was funding the creation of local schools.
Alfred Sutton Primary School opened as the “Wokingham Road School ” with just over 100 children attending the first day in 1902, it was renamed after Alfred Sutton in 1920 when there were 528 children attending – 50 in a class. The red brick building is not just functional, it really seems to celebrate children and education.
I’m not alone in seeking out something more substantially hot in bed than a hot water bottle. The online product reviews were posted by people over 55 years old – it’s better than their last electric blanket, it’s the best electric blanket they’ve ever owned. …ooOOoo…
It’s sold out online. I take ‘please me now’ action and walk to the local store. Yes. Satisfaction. My first ever electric blanket joins the single-skin brick wendy house. My bed has become cosy incorporated.
I’ve always admired the wrought ironwork on the porch of the London road side of the Gladstone club. It’s a grade II listed building. The listing mentions that in 1887 the house was the home of the recently founded Reading High School.
It’s easy to notice the Gladstone club, without actually noticing it. It’s a substantial building in a significant location facing out onto both Reading’s London Road and Kings Road. The club is next door to the Abbot Cook pub on the Cemetery junction on the southern edge of Newtown. Newtown is where the Huntley and Palmer factory employees lived.
Once it was a grand building. It’s namesake William Gladstone was a record breaking 4 times (Liberal) Prime Minister of Britain. The link with Huntley and Palmers is more than the proximity of the club to Newtown. The Huntley and Palmer website says:
“In 1878 George Palmer became a Member of Parliament for the Liberal party. He was nicknamed the ‘silent member’, although he did make a few contributions to debates. In his maiden speech he supported a bill to grant women the right to vote “
Sadly, the Gladstone building now stands empty with a for sale sign on it. Until 2010 it was a delightful Indian restaurant and wine bar called the “Sardar Palace”. Now it looks forgotten, overlooked. Grass is moving into the gaps in the forecourt paving.
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.
One 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.
The 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”
Rumour 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)
Or what I’ve found out about Huntley and Palmers so far:
Joseph Huntley and his son Thomas opened a biscuit shop at 72 London street, Reading, in 1822. As Quakers, the Huntleys believed in honesty, self-discipline and hard work. They used high quality ingredients and sold their cakes and biscuits at a fair price – passing on savings to the customer rather than accumulating unnecessary wealth. I like their approach.
In 1846 the firm purchased a factory on Kings Road for £1,800. The factory was positioned on an island site between the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon canal. It had a floor space of 5,000 square feet and was spread over an area of half an acre. The Island is currently the home of the Prudential’s headquarters.
In 1850 the working week for men was 58½ hours – 6.30am to 6.30pm. In 1872 the working week for men was reduced to 54 hours, the same as for women. By 1918 it had been reduced to 48 hours. Huntley and Palmers employed about 10% of the whole Reading town workforce, 5,409 workers by 1918
From 1855 Saturday evening entertainments were held to keep people out of the public houses. A Mutual Improvement Society was started and all employees over 16 could use the library on payment of 1d per week. Weekly lectures were also organised during the winter months.
By 1860 Huntly and Palmers employed 500 staff who produced 3,200 tons of biscuits per year. In 1861 the average weekly wage was 16s 9d for men and 8s 8d for women and girls. By 1894 this had risen to 20s 1d for men and 9s 3d for women and girls.
Between 1851 and 1901 the population of Reading increased from 22,000 to 72,000. Attracted by the jobs, migration from the countryside was playing an increasing role in the growth of towns across the country. Reading expanded its boundaries in 1887 to include Newtown, the Wokingham Road area beyond Cemetery Junction, and part of Tilehurst. It had the largest population of all the towns in the county and was the only one big enough to achieve county borough status in 1889
In July 1855 they arranged a boat Thames trips for about 200 employess and families to Park Place near Henley. In 1857 the firms first outing was organised when the employees went by special train to Crystal Palace. From then on every alternate year an excursion took place, until 1868 the sheer number of 3,000 employees made factory excursions impossible. In 1898 the Recreation Club was founded by George Palmer who had bought 49 acres of land (now Palmers Park) to provide sports facilities. The company provided all the equipment for cricket, football, hockey, quoits, bowls, tennis and athletics.
The company enforced a behavioural code for its staff. Fines for misbehaviour were paid into a Sick Fund box. The Fund was a scheme set up in 1849 to benefit employees or their families who had experienced a death or serious illness. Employees contributed sixpence a week, and received 12 shillings a week benefit during illness. This was before there was any form of national health scheme
Employees who had completed over 50 years service received a non-contributory pension. By the early twentieth century a pension fund had been set up but only men were allowed to join.
The decline of the companies fortunes can be aligned with many changing environmental and social conditions and coincided with the changing moral values of the family owners from Quaker to Anglican. The link may not be causal… I’d like to know more about the decline.
In 1975 the factory provided the location for the bar scenes in the Hollywood movie ‘Bugsy Malone’ with Jodie Foster and Scott Baio.
Production ceased at Reading in 1976
Good sources on Huntley and Palmers history
- Huntley and Palmers collection
- Slough History online service.
- Reading University special collections “featurehuntleyandpalmerbiscuits.pdf “
- Tony Corley – Berkshire Family Historian
On the north wall a Smith’s clock from London with a 7 day mechanism shares it’s Westminster chimes every quarter hour
On the west wall a Saqui and Lawrence pendulum clock from London with a 7 day mechanism strikes every hour
On the stairway of doom a cuckoo clock from Lucerne with a 24 hour mechanism chirrups every hour
- when the hour should be called
- the length of a minute
All the mechanic clocks tick tock, at gradually slowing rates
Around the hour, the house sings with differing overlapping strikes and chimes
I love the sound
It is the sound of home with all the clocks chattering the time away in their own idiosynchratic ways. They bring peace to my home in a way that’s probably similar to placing a child in a car to drive around until the child falls asleep
tick-tock tick-tick tock-tock tick-tock tick tick tick tock tock BING-BONG Cuckoo……etc