Monthly Archives: March 2012

Caversham Court

CAVERSHAM COURT

The Allotment Gate from the Warren

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.

The Allotment Gate from within the gardens.

Already in the ownership of the Corporation, they were offered as allotments in 1940 by the Finance and General Purposes Committee (1).

The Timeline leading to the Upper Storey of the Gazebo.

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.

The Pond.

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.

The Allotments

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 and the crinkle-crankle wall

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 .

Detail from the garden Allotment Gate

FACT PANEL

 

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
Status: (8) Temporary

 

 

References

(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

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Mockbeggar

Mockbeggar Gate

Mockbeggar allotments on leafy Whiteknights Road were previously the kitchen garden of Mockbeggar House. They were offered as allotments soon after the start of the Second World War. The rent requested for the then 147 pole plot was £5 per annum and plots were to be let at £1 per pole.  The Town Clerk promised to give up possession on the 29 September following the end of the War (1). That date (and several others) have come and gone long ago.

The first meeting of the Allotments and Small Holdings Committee after the declaration of war was 2 October 1939 (2). At this meeting, the Town Clerk submitted communications from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries dated 18 and 19 September. These included a copy of the Cultivation of Lands (Allotments) Order 1939. This empowered the council to take possession of land for cultivation. It was also suggested that a Horticulture Committee be set up to encourage food production in allotments and private gardens. They duly resolved to set up a Horticulture sub-committee. In the same meeting, the committee considered and accepted the offer of services to the Corporation of Mr A.J.Cobb FRHS who had been senior lecturer in Horticulture at Reading University. He became the first Horticulture Adviser, but only briefly. Early in 1940 he resigned to Head the Horticultural Department at Seal-Hayne Agricultural College (3). The Horticultural sub-committee continued in existence until 1952 (4).

View of the site

Mockbeggar remains a small compact garden site on gently sloping land. There is only a small gate and no vehicular access. Maps of the area from 1957 show a vast allotment site behind Mockbeggar on what became school playing fields. The surrounding area has been redeveloped recently and the allotments are bordered by a new care home and flats, and has lost some of the “secret garden” feel that it would have had. However it might still be possible to walk past without realising that there were allotments behind the fence.

On the other side of Whiteknights Road is Whiteknights Lake created in the mid-eighteenth century. The lake is situated on the University of Reading Campus, acquired in 1947 (5). There is an earth bank to the dam that is within the allotments and maintained by Reading Borough Council . The potential impact on the safety of the dam by the development of a residential care home next to the allotments in 2008 caused press comment as it appeared to have caused cracks in the road (6).

Gate to the Community Garden

A short distance from the allotments is a community garden on the former paddock of Mockbeggar House. This has been run as a Therapeutic Wildlife Garden by the Ridgeline Trust since 2004 (7).

Mockbeggar Vineyards

One of the tenants had given over the whole plot to vine growing.

I met a kindly occupier who gave me some gherkin seeds for my plot at Waterloo Meadows and they did very well.

Thriving crops

FACT PANEL

 

No. of plots: (9) 21
Full plot equivalent: (9) 10.9
Date allotments established: 1940
Date taken on by Council: 1940
Previous use: Kitchen Garden
Status: (10) Temporary

References:

(1)    Minutes of the Small Holdings and Allotments Committee 19 February 1940 – R/AC1/3/74 (BRO)

(2)    Minutes of the Small Holdings and Allotments Committee 2 October 1939 – R/AC1/3/71 (BRO)

(3)    Minutes of the Small Holdings and Allotments Committee 19 February 1940 – R/AC1/3/74 (BRO)

(4)    Allotments and Small Holdings Committee Minutes – 20 May 1952 – R/AC1/3/12 (BRO)

(5)    Reading University

http://www.reading.ac.uk/about/about-estates.aspx

– accessed 2 March 2012.

(6)    Reading Post, 25 March 2008. http://www.getreading.co.uk/news/s/2024423_development_could_cause_dam_to_break

– accessed 2 March 2012.

(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)    Ridgeline Trust

http://www.ridgelinetrust.org.uk/progress.html

– accessed  2 March 2012.

(9)    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.

(10)  Reading Borough Council 2005 Allotment Plan.

© Evelyn Williams 2012

PDF version here:

9 Mockbeggar

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