Mockbeggar was not the only kitchen garden to become allotments during the second world war. Caversham Court allotments are situated on the old kitchen garden of the eponymous house which was demolished in 1933.
Already in the ownership of the Corporation, they were offered as allotments in 1940 by the Finance and General Purposes Committee (1).
Caversham Court has a long and illustrious history documented in the Gazebo in the garden and the timeline leading to it. Restored and reopened on 7 August 2009, the gardens are a delightful Thames riverside location. They benefit from the care and attention of the Caversham Court gardens staff including the Head Gardener Emily Waters who I had the pleasure to meet when I visited. She and one of her assistants showed me around and pointed out the additional features in the allotments. Fruit trees have been planted in the crinkle-crankle wall to benefit from the micro-climate created by the curve of the brickwork. There is a nature area with a pond and laid hedge.
Caversham Court Gardens are one of around 1600 parks and gardens listed by English Heritage (2). It also has a Green Heritage Site Award (3). These must be the most desirable allotments in Reading. In October 2011 there was a waiting list of 50 with an average wait of 46 months (4). Not the longest waiting list and not the longest average wait: but these are very popular allotments. That is despite the fact that there is no vehicular access and sheds are not allowed.
Allotment holders have a representative on the Caversham Court Management Committee so that their interests can be taken account of as one of the stakeholders in this high profile location.
Much of the infrastructure of the previous kitchen garden remains. The crinkle-crankle wall has already been mentioned (strictly speaking it is not a crinkle-crankle wall but it is referred to as such in most literature). Some of the allotments are in an area previously occupied by hot houses warmed by chimneys in the wall, clearly visible from The Warren.
St Peter’s Church overlooks Caversham Court. Caversham Court is a relatively new name. Until the beginning of the First World War, it was known as The Old Rectory. It had a list of illustrious owners including the Simonds family who ran Reading’s Simonds Brewery. Williams Blackall Simonds purchased the freehold from Christ Church Oxford at the end of the 18th century. The house was then occupied by Blackall Simonds, Henry John Simonds and finally Henry Caversham Simonds. The rectory was auctioned in 1911. During the First World War, the owner was Lady Elizabeth Mosley, the grandmother of Oswald Mosley. The last person to live in and own the house was dog breeder Mary de Pledge. After she left, the Caversham Court Company Limited purchased the house for use as residential accommodation. It was then briefly used as the Oxfordshire County Club but affected by the depression in the 1930s this did not thrive and Reading Corporation was able to purchase the house and grounds in 1931 (5).
Decline set in in the 1970s and continued until, in 2008 a £1.6 million project including Heritage Lottery Funding was secured to restore the gardens (6)
The reopened gardens are a credit to Reading and it is significant that the kitchen garden continues to be used for growing food .
|No. of plots: (7)||25|
|Full plot equivalent: (7)||9.6|
|Date allotments established:||1940|
|Date taken on by Council:||1933|
|Previous use:||Kitchen Garden|
(1) Allotments and Small Holdings Committee Minutes 11 March 1940. R/AC1/3/74 (BRO)
(2) http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/caring/listing/registered-parks-and-gardens/grading – accessed 13 March 2012
(3) http://www.keepbritaintidy.org/GreenFlag/Awards/GreenHeritageSites/Default.aspx – accessed 13 March 2012
(4) http://www.reading.gov.uk/residents/naturalenvironment/allotments/allotment-availability – accessed 13 March 2012
(5) Most of this history comes from the information panels in the Gazebo.
(6) http://www.reading.gov.uk/residents/ParksandOpenSpaces/CavershamCourt – accessed 13 March 2012. From this web page, downloads of the Caversham Court Maintenance and Management Plan and other information about the history and the Heritage Lottery Grant application can be obtained.
(7) November 2008 Report to the Green City and Open Spaces Forum, 19 November 2008. Allotment Provision and Plan Update. Director of Environment Culture and Sport.
(8) Reading Borough Council 2005 Allotment Plan.
PDF version here:10 Caversham Court
© Evelyn Williams 2012