Bar staff: (raises eyebrows, furrows brows looking perplexed)
Wendy: It’s in the USA
Bar staff: Wow! I’d love to move out of Reading
Bar staff: (raises eyebrows, furrows brows looking perplexed)
Wendy: It’s in the USA
Bar staff: Wow! I’d love to move out of Reading
The ‘highway maintenance’ team who resurfaced the Avenue (where I live) were all very
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 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
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….
Plastic locks on the top of wine bottles displayed in a local store.
Is it to stop terrorists putting poison in the wine? Or to stop locals drinking the wine straight from the bottle (for free) when no-one’s looking. Neither option is a promotional point for living locally. Oh dear. Defensive design gives out such a poor message about human behaviour…something, somewhere’s gone wrong…
The fancy new Reading town Grimshaw designed train station is not quite finished. It’s already showing some fundamental design flaws. It’s good looking, if you like big open spaces and an airport foyer feel. But they’ve already had to put in blue plastic barriers to direct the pedestrian traffic boarding and disembarking from the escalators – to avoid too many clashes. I followed the signs for the washrooms up onto the bridge concourse, but the signs stop there. A temporary design fix (information booth) was placed in the centre of the airport style open bridge concourse. I asked where the nearest washrooms were, On platform 12b.
On platform 12b?!
Almost all the pedestrian traffic goes through the bridge concourse and they didn’t put any washrooms there? How bizarre. The architect doesn’t appear to have thought of the station as a place where humans move in predictable patterns with predictable needs. The retrospective design fixes interrupt the ‘beautiful’ lines of the building.
The graveyard at Cemetery junction in Reading town is a ‘Garden Cemetery’, designed and planted to enable visitors to promenade.
Most weekends I’ll take a stroll around the cemetery, enjoying the natural peace and beauty and the wonderful sculptural art placed there as remembrances to people….
passed and past
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 walk by several times a day. It always brings a smile to my face. Cemetery junction is a lively community hub and a traffic nightmare. This store compliments the diversity of the area and starts you dreaming of possibilities and happy events.
It reminds me of the 70’s children TV program “Mr Benn“. It’s a pleasant diversion from the other local, numerous, convenience and fast food stores.
At the moment I’m trying to pluck up the courage to go in and try on the costumes… find my own adventure.
Just seeing the shop makes my day.
After work I’ll walk along to the local primary school “Alfred Sutton” walk up to a table that’s labelled with “H” for House, give them my voter card and they’ll use a pencil to cross my name of a paper list and point me to a little booth where I’ll go and put an ‘X’ next to the name of the person I want to vote for.
It’s all very quaint and has been the same since I started voting in the early 80’s.
Friends in Washington State (West coast USA) get to vote by dropping their papers in a large Ballot Box or the mail, it’s all postal vote for them. In this case, the family made a trip to the ballot box location and the children ceremoniously dropped their vote into the Ballot box.
I get to walk along the Avenue every day. My very own Festive Road. Wearing different hats, I can be different people. Where shall we go today?
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:
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:
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!
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
Friday night on a Trauma ward was set against a background chorus of quiet crying, distressed mumbling and snoring. A blanket of private sadnesses reverberating through the ward.
The lady at Ward reception wasn’t expecting a patient to checkin. She went off to find someone who might know about me. A 2 inch thick folder of patient notes lay on the reception table facing me. I read my name on the cover. Mainly empty forms, no X-Rays, no notes, a couple of interesting letters from my GP. The lady returned.
Bed 26, follow me
The silver haired patient in bed 24, opposite, smiled and nodded in a silent welcoming way.
there’re so many guests :-
they’re as good as Indian
It’s the sort of comment that prompts me to produce furniture rattling laughter. And so it did. The Indian lady liked my refined audience skills. Turning to me she started a more detailed comparision between this Church of England wedding and the Indian family weddings she’d attended. Her husband nodded, smiled and giggled.
This happy couple helped distract me from the disturbing lack of hats. Over 200 guests and only 4 hats. If you count a fascinator as a hat then maybe 14 hats. A generally poor show for headgear. Adrienne’s business must feel the pain of this changing trend.
Normally I’m not thrilled by large chain bookstores. I prefer to find second hand, or at least independent, book stores. The Reading town Waterstones is changing my impression. Recently it hosted a little soiree in the local interest section for the launch of AFH’s new book. AFH told stories about the mysteries of children and beards, showed us his book, signed copies of the book, and let us eat coloured cakes and ginger beer. All very civilised.
The counter-staff in Reading’s Waterstones are all very personable. They talk as if you are a friend and seem genuinely interested in doing a good job. One young lad spent nigh-on 15 minutes explaining why his computer system wasn’t working and how unreliable it is – not tolerating typing or spelling errors. As you can imagine, I found this type of conversation totally engaging.
He told me that Michael Palin was only doing one book signing in a Waterstones’ store and he’d chosen the Reading store. Evidently people had phoned the store with book orders from all over the country and would be travelling to get their copy signed by Michael.
“We’re expecting more than 200 people! We don’t know where we’ll put them, how it will work“
He sounded very excited and happy. I asked why he thought Michael had chosen the Reading store “Probably because of our events organiser, she’s very good, she can persuade anyone to do almost anything” . His proud words about his colleague were envigorating. I liked listening to this young chap chat, much better than a ‘shopping experience‘ more like a ‘shooting the breeze‘ experience.
Meanwhile I purchased a ticket to listen to Jasper Fford talk about his next thursday next book. Oh!
I’ve been a tad off-colour recently and will be for a while to come. Posting in the wendy house might get somewhat unreliable and possibly even influenced by drugs of the NHS supplied variety. In the meantime here’s a view from a sedate 6 mile ramble that I managed to tackle this weekend. I managed the whole affair without
During a conversation about Reading town pubs, one fellow suddenly blurts out
I love your house!
wendy: that’s the right answer, me too (huge cheshire cat grin)
fellow: it’s like a secret courtyard hidden away from the city, in the heart of the city!
wendy: (HUGE Grin – pours the fellow more alcohol)
Names on below the Maiwand lion in Reading town’s Forbury Gardens.
The lion commemorates the deaths of 329 men from the 66th Berkshire Regiment during the campaign in Afghanistan between 1878 and 1880
Finnicky details like ‘not being in Durham‘ and ‘not being surrounded by Maples’ do not detract from the fabulousness of Mapledurham house (and mill, turbine, tea-rooms, village, riverside)
It is a well preserved Elizabethan building on the banks of the river Thames, a couple of miles outside Reading town. Getting there involved a 2 mile drive down a winding single-track country road bounded by 10ft ancient hedgerows. Thomas and I had to use our skills for
A friend recently bought the derelict Flitwick Mill, that is mentioned in the Doomsday book (1066 AD). Looking around the Mapledurham mill gave me an insight into how the Flitwick mill might have looked and sounded. I loved the sound of the creaking cogs transferring the power of the waterwheel to the millstone.
Other highlights of the mill included the
Lots of lovely things in the actual house, staircases, wood panneling, furniture, textiles, fireplaces…..
I kept a look-out for woodcarvings or plaster mouldings of similar design to the carving on my new, old, bench. They might help me to ‘date’ the bench. I din’t find any, I’ll keep looking….
It takes a few seconds to realise what’s actually happening. First thinking the touch is accidental, before I smell the beer and see the sneer. Then wanting to thrust my fist into his nose. So easy to break his nose. To inflict pain and a public scar
Swallowing this thought – I step back, look him up and down, shake my head and sigh deeply – before turning and walking away
Nothing I could have said or done would improve this old man’s behaviour. My gut reaction would’ve increased his mysogeny. I suspect I was supposed to scream and run away
“It was colder last week, it’s not like we live in the Arctic, you’ll just have to man-up“
Once again, for the 3rd time, Reading town’s bid to become a city has failed. Reading town suffers from city appraisal anxiety
I rather like living in such a well-endowed town, though many townsfolk seem to have a chip on their shoulder about Reading repeatedly not being made a city. Big town even sounds good like ‘Big heart’ or ‘Big ted‘
According to the BBC’s description of the recent bid Reading town was a bookies favourite to win city status. Our local ‘civic leaders’ believe that attaning city status will provide Reading town with ” huge economic, cultural and social benefits to the area, as well as a jobs boost.”
I wonder what has changed for the people in the towns that were promoted to cities for the Millenium and in 2002? Have Brighton and Hove, Wolverhampton, Inverness, Preston and Newport all experienced HUGE cultural, social and economic growth since achieving city status?
My wardorbe was originally shipped from France to Portsmouth, probably circa 1880. It has a French accent. I found it in a 1993 garage sale (no garage) where the owner was moving to America and selling large furniture that wouldn’t ‘fit’ in an American apartment
Sailed to Seattle
Ironically, in 2000 I shipped the wardrobe from Portsmouth to the USA. The french wardrobe looked decidely small in the large bedroom with its own built-in, walk-in, wardrobe. In Seattle the wardrobe was honourarily called an ‘Armoire‘ in respect of its origins.
Now nearer Narnia
Most recently it was shipped from Seattle to the Wendy House in Reading town, near Narnia inspiring countryside of Oxfordshire. Armoire holds my hat collection. Over 50 hats, silk and top hats in hat boxes, baseball caps on hooks, Cloches carefully laid out and stuffed with wooly ski hats.
The hats in Armoire provide a doorway to so many different places. Each time I put on a different hat, like Mr Benn, I’m taken to the place that is right for that hat. In Today’s -12 temperatures my ear-muffing psuedo-Russian snow leopard hat will be taking me somewhere….I wonder where…
Welcome to the 4th Naked Archaeologist Calendar, brought to you by “RUINED” (Reading University Archaeology Society). Featuring lovely archaeologists at excavations in Silchester, Jordan and Scotland and various other scenarios and contexts around the university archaeology department
A clean, shiny, black shoe sits in conversation with a lampost on a recently cleaned Reading town street. How did this executive shoe become abandoned, where has its partner gone?
The Italian tourist on Paddington station asked me
“what times are off-peak travel times?”
Gradually realising the sysem craziness I reply
“That depends which direction you are travelling, peak time applies to trains into London in the morning and out of London in the evening, so if you are travelling into London in the evening – there is no peak time
but I’m not sure”
Then I asked my Londoner friend for clarification
“Are there peak time restrictions on the tube?”
My friend didn’t know about ‘peak times’ so we assumed that tube trains within London didn’t have travel restrictions based on time of travel. How could this Italian distinguish between tube trains and other trains when they use the same stations? Should we say ‘you can travel on the grubby looking trains that are travelling around London, sort of, at any time”? I felt daunted. Such a simple question, such a complex answer.
Then, to make matters worse, I remembered that at peak times you can catch some trains which are not covered by the peak time travel restrictions, so added
“You can travel at peak time with a non-peak time ticket on some trains, normally the slower trains, but some of the fast trains”
The Italian looked suitably baffled. We hadn’t really helped her. I had a passing thought of Franz Kafka, imagining him stuck on a train station trying to get out of London at 5pm. No matter how good your grasp of the English language, this explanation, this system is
it’s not designed to make ticket purchase and use easy, its evolved to satisfy diverse organisations that lack customer perspective. The best pracitcal suggestion that we could give the Italian was
“Find the train you want to travel on and ask one of the rail staff if it works, and what’s their best suggestion, it’s the only way to be sure”
When I asked a train station employee at Reading main station he whipped out a PAPER leaflet that listed trains that travel at peak times but accept off-peak time tickets. This work-around suggest that the service providers recognise the problem. The cute, archaic, work-around made me smile. But why not make it easier for the traveller in the first place (or time)!
Currently peak travel times are defined by a mixture of train
I know what name I’d like to give the ticket pricing and travel system, but that’s unpublishable …..
Your’s huiffily, wendy x
PS here are the peak travel time trains from Paddington that accept off-peak time tickets:
The wedding practice-party mingle in the sunshine outside St James and St William of York church. I skirt the party and slip into the substantial entrance porch of Pugin‘s psuedo Norman church. A handsome young man in the porch is talking on his mobile phone:
I’d just like you to take the “a” off the end of my name. At the moment it looks like two girls are getting married – Nicola and Alexa. My name is Alex not Alexa. Please just put it right
I imagine the wedding with the grooms name miss-spelt as a girls name. If they are having the rehearsal, the wedding is probably fairly soon, I am impressed at how well the groom maintains a semblance of calm as he delivers his plea
Reading town has many sculptures, often hidden in unobrusive places where you stumble across them. Suprises in unexpected places.Very pleasing
Sculpture by: Lorne McKean
The girl and swan are easily found at the front of Arundel House, downtown. on Kings Road. I love the way the swan attached to the wall looks like it’s light, it’s flying. I find the seemingly nude, pre-pubescent female figue slightly disturbing
Sculpture by: Elizabeth Frink
A fully covered, adult, standing monk has raised his left arm as if about to gesture. Less than 1,000 feet from the girl and the swan it is more difficult to find. Not on a main thoroughfair. In a garden on a quiet walkway within the ruins of Reading Abbey alongside Reading Gaol
I wonder why he’s raised his arm, is it a greeting or the natural swing as he walks?
The sound of christian church bells calling people to prayer cheerfully echos around the Wendy House garden on a Sunday morning. In April London Road, Wokingham Road, Cumberland Road, adjoining streets and park come alive with orange clad Sikh’s singing and sharing goodwill in the streets for Nagar Kirtan
Until recently there were only a couple of Mosques in Reading town. Converted buildings rather than purpose built. Can you imagine approximately 10,000 local Muslims using a couple of tiny converted buildings?
Reading town’s first purpose built Abu Bakr Masjid Islamic centre is part of the solution, and nearly complete. It adds wonderful colour, spirituality and architectural interest to the already diverse and vibrant Oxford Road
It’s on the outstanding Number 17 bus route. Alas, it’s not big enough for 10,000 muslims
Another beautifully architected Mosque is now planned for East Reading, also on the awesome Number 17 bus route
Reading town feels multi-cultrual and as-if people care about more than just the acquisitiveness of capitalism