scribbles tagged ‘Palmer’

the Gladstone club

Sunday, October 21st, 2012 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Gladstone Club Gladstone clubI’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 “

The Acacias (London Rd)George Palmer lived on London Road in “The Acacias” about 500 yards west of the Gladstone club. An easy walk.

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 Gladstone club
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Newtown in a new century – 1900 through to 2000

Sunday, October 14th, 2012 | 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)
Newtown in a new century – 1900 through to 2000
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behavioural and biscuits

Friday, October 12th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

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.

Prudential HeadquartersIn 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

Huntley and PalmerIn 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.

Palmer's park in Newtown - still used for football tournaments and more!By 1873 the company had become the largest biscuit producer in the world

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 Acacias (London Rd)In 1906 George Palmer’s son, Alfred, presented the college with the site in London Road which included The Acacias, his fathers former home. This became the University Library.

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

behavioural and biscuits
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free tranquility

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 | tags: ,  |

Bluebell borderReading town is not reknowned for its beauty. Internet research before I first visited provided a rather scathing description of the town as a place that is near other places worth visiting like London, Oxford, Windsor, Stone Henge. A commuter town that people only visited to sleep or shop in the mall resourced with most major chain outlets in a riverside setting.

The descriptions didn’t tweak my aspiration to live in a cute city with a rich history, diverse and vibrant entertainment opportunities. This photograph was taken at 10am in Forbury gardens in Reading town.  Whatever the season the gardens are cared for and visited. They are so beautiful. I walk through them to soak up the free tranquility and social vibes whenever I’m walking to the train station (often) or downtown. Like a village, locals use the gardens to sunbathe and play games, I bump into people that I know. Unlike a village the gardens host many, diverse, events. Bands play in a band-stand, it hosts art shows and charity fund raisers. Reading parks are wonderful. They are a good reason to live in the town.

Reading has 3 major parks – Palmer’s Park, Prospect Park and Forbury gardens. Each plays a slightly different role.

  • Palmers park -tennis, soccer, cycling, jogging, cricket, children’s playground. SPORT.
  • Prospect park – nature rambles, picknicks, jogging, dog walking, snooping on wildlife, steam train appreciation
  • Forbury gardens– concerts, sunbathing, break from shopping, picnic, watching the world go by, history lesson, plant appreciation

Drop by and check it for yourselves, for me its a special place for tranquilty and community

free tranquility
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virgin member

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

My overdue trip to join Reading library. Overdue will not turn into a relationship theme

Palmers Park library Membership packI walked up to the desk opposite the door with the large sign saying membership. A young lady watched me as I picked up a leaflet describing how to join. easy, fill in this form provide evidence of address (Driving license) and normal signature (Debit card). As I reached for a pen from the pot on the far side of the desk the young lady walked over.  She picked and passed me a pen as she sat down good, I get to sit down now

wendy: can I take a photograph of that sign?

staff: Oh! No-one’s ever asked that before…Um…if there are no people in the picture

Excellent, the Saturday staff feel able to make decisions on unusual requests. The girl sweetly listened to me tell her about Kevin’s blog as I completed the form. Then she went into coorporation style ‘rote-retell’ mode as she desciribed the contents of the new member’s pack before handing it to me.

  • 2 hours of free internet access a day
  • The addresses and opening times of all the branches, including one in Palmers park that opens ’till 7pm 2 nights midweek
  • A free CD/DVD loan because of my new membership
  • charge-rates
  • Frequently Asking Questions
  • Special services (alas all the ‘coffee mornings’ are on weekdays, when I can’t join in)
  • Adult services (adult book groups. OH! who’d have guessed?! One group meets in the ‘Back of Beyond‘)
  • Children services (they have Pyjamma evenings in the library – wish I was a real child!)
  • Toy library

After this preliminary dance I was let-loose on the stock. …..ooOOOOooooo…. I left with an unabridged Audio book; Ian McEwan’s ‘On chesil beach’ read by the author.  It may not smell of book, but the commute to work this week will be a joy….

Goodies, lovely goodies…

virgin member
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palms outside palmers

Thursday, April 1st, 2010 | tags: ,  |

The Huntley and Palmer building has been converted into flats.   A new garden has been installed out front of the building,   the garden is full of pebbles and palm trees.   Pressumably preparing for global warming

Huntley and Palmers building tropical garden

Huntley and Palmers' building tropical garden

palms outside palmers
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distinctive seasons

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 | tags: , ,  |

Why I love England #12: distinctive seasons

Some long  daylight days,   some long evenings,    changing colours,    smells, temperatures,   ….feel.   I love how the changes bring different moods and experiences.

Beach Tree Walkway

sunlight and dew

Avenue in Palmer's park

Cemetery Junction


distinctive seasons
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Staffed with fishy symbolism

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 | tags: , , , ,  |

There are strange,   repeating, symbols built into the buildings and public places  all around Reading.   There are 4 scallops and 2 crossed pilgrim staff’s on the gate posts of Palmers park.   The Scallops turn up again in the Univerity of Reading’s coat of arms.    

Evidently the shells are thought to be an emblem of pilgramage because pilgrims to Europe would bring back the scallop shells from beaches.   The association with Reading is probably because the old Abbey claimed to hold the hand of St James as a holy relic that shell-carrying pilgrims would come to visit.   I wonder how St. James hand got to Reading Abbey….    

Scallop or i-pod?  visit your nana or some dead saints embalmed hand?     Such choices open to the modern traveller.

Four miserable looking people surrounding a chap in a crown on a bridge over the river kennet.   This same symbol also appears on one of the gate-posts of Palmer’s park,   though in not as much full delightful pale-skinned, blonde and blue colouring.   Aparantly this is Reading Town’s coat of Arms and the 4 people are probably burgesses…   ..and the miserable looking person is Queen Elizabeth (1 or 2 depending on how you feel).

A version of this cluster of people turns up on the symbol for ‘Reading School’   the people have an almost ominous range of sly  through snide to  surreal expressions.   Girl power gone wonkey?


Staffed with fishy symbolism
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Palmers Park

Saturday, April 19th, 2008 | tags: , , , ,  |

Named after Mr. George Palmer of Biscuit fame who donated the land for use as a Park,   next to the South Park conservation area of Reading.    Palmers park currently includes a:

1) lot of trees and grass that are  occassionally covered in snow or sunlight and are always beautiful.

2) sports stadium.   Featuring a  velodrome  with lots of people wearing colourful lycra and providing exercise classes called ‘legs bums & tums’ for people who have not yet earned the right to wear lycra.

3) library  that is really rather cute.

Palmers Park
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