Monthly Archives: October 2012

Newcastle Road

Newcastle Road – sign on the gate

 

Newcastle Road allotments are a real gem. Unlike many allotments, they are not hidden away next to a railway line, river or surrounded by houses. They are right there on Newcastle Road for all to see. The No 5 bus even makes a detour so that they can be truly appreciated by bus passengers.

Newcastle Road allotments, Cintra Park behind the trees

To the north lies Cintra Park (1). Newcastle Road was unmarked on the 1911 OS Map and may have been part of an area shown as allotments. Warwick Road was already built on and there were houses along Northumberland Avenue. By 1926 the landscape has changed and Newcastle Road is marked on plans included with the estate catalogue for the sale of Whitley Park Estate by members of the Palmer family (2).

Grassy path and trees

An area of land on Newcastle Road was offered as allotments by the Highways Committee in 1943, and this may be the current site  (3). Thereafter, the allotments keep a fairly low profile with nothing significant appearing in committee minutes. Mysteriously, the allotments are not shown on the 1957 OS Map, when they probably would have existed. In 1965 the Borough Surveyor was to look at the possibility of three allotment sites being turned from temporary to statutory allotments. Newcastle Road, with an area of 1.67 acres was one of those (4).

Here I found one of the best examples of raised beds that I saw in any of Reading’s allotments.

Beautiful raised beds

If you do take the No 5 bus to Newcastle Road allotments, sit on the top deck at the front and as the bus almost appears to plummet down Northumberland Avenue look out across the view before you, and imagine the scene when most was allotments and farmland. Newcastle Road and Goddard’s Farm allotments further south on Hartland Road, being (almost) all that remains (5).

FACT PANEL

No. of plots: (6) 41
Full plot equivalent: (6) 23.2
Date allotments established: 1943 or earlier
Date taken on by Council: 1943
Previous use: openland / farmland / allotments
Status: (7) Statutory

References

 (1)    see Chapter – 3 B’s and Allotments.

(2)    Whitley Park Estate Catalogue 1926. Reading Library, local studies collection. The sale includes areas let as allotments on both sides of what would become Hexham Road.

(3)    Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 8 March 1943. R/AC1/3/83. (BRO)

(4)    Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 15 November 1965. R/AC1/3/139. (BRO). The other two sites were Southcote and Oakley Road.

(5)    see Chapter – Goddard’s Farm. Some community gardens have recently been established.

(6)    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.

(7)    Reading Borough Council 2005 Allotment Plan.

© Evelyn Williams 2012

PDF version: 24 Newcastle Road

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The 3B’s and Allotments

Reading had three industries for which it was famous: the 3B’s of Beer, Bulbs and Biscuits. H&G Simonds (later Courage) Brewery (beer), Suttons Seeds (bulbs) and Huntley & Palmers (biscuits) were major employers and major influences on town life in the nineteenth and twentieth century. The last to leave Reading was the Courage Brewery that closed at the beginning of 2010.

The story of Reading’s allotments would not be complete without a consideration of the part these particular enterprises played in local allotment history (1).

H&G Simonds

Originally in the centre of Reading at Bridge Street, the brewery moved out to a site on the M4 in 1980 (2). Courage Park in Coley Park, was once the brewery sports ground.

Courage Park Bench – perfect!

In 1947, The Hop Leaf Gazette, Simonds in house magazine, carried an item “Allotments for Employees”. It was proposed to let out a piece of land on the sports ground for allotments (3). By December they were able to report, “It was indeed a happy suggestion to hand over about two acres of the Sports Ground to be converted to allotments. This portion of the Sports Ground had laid unused for a considerable time, but it is now turned to a very useful purpose.” Some of the 19, 10 pole plots were already being worked on (4). Maps of the area show the allotments in 1960, but by 1972 they had been built on.

Welcome to Courage Park

Suttons Seeds

Suttons had an influence on Reading allotments in more ways than one. It was a supplier of seeds and plants, garden equipment and growing advice as well as providing allotments for employees.

Suttons had premises in the centre of Reading which grew to cover six acres stretching from The Forbury to Abbey Square with a shop on Market Place. In 1962 everything except the shop moved to the trial grounds at Earley. In 1976 the company moved to Torquay, where it continues. Sentimental and nostalgic Reading allotment holders can still buy Suttons seeds and plants.

Cintra Park today

Land at Cintra for the Suttons Recreation Club was made available by Leonard Goodhart Sutton in 1906. In 1917 land in Northumberland Avenue, was also made available to staff for allotments. Cintra was the venue for the 8th Reading Horticultural Show in 1948 and for several years thereafter.

Cintra Park Avenue of Trees

In 1957, according to L.G.Sutton’s will the land was given to Reading Borough Council  and became Cintra Park (5).

Cintra Park Sign

Huntley & Palmers

Huntley & Palmers biscuit production at the factory in the centre of Reading ceased in 1976; Huntley & Palmers Horticultural Association however continues.

Advertising for Huntley & Palmers Horticultural Association Trading Shed

Frederick Yates, a manager at Huntley & Palmers was a member of the Horticultural Association and chairman for many years retiring in 1989. Huntley and Palmers Social Club were founder members of the Federation of Horticultural and Allotment Associations of Reading when it was formed in 1940 (6). The organisation was part of the Dig for Victory Campaign of World War II, staging the Victory Garden Show (later Reading Show) from 1941. Frederick Yates was chairman of the Reading Show committee from 1943 until 1968 (7).

Culver Lane allotments are the last vestige of Huntley and Palmer’s allotments that once covered a larger area, they are now managed by Earley Town Council. The Huntley & Palmers Horticultural Association has a trading shed on the site where I met the current Chairman and Treasurer (8).

Huntley and Palmers also had allotments on Northumberland Avenue. The Northumberland Avenue allotments were still in existence in 1954, but it was soon expected to be required for housing. The September 1954 issue of Garden Topics, under the heading “RUMOURS” reproduces a letter from the Town Clerk to Huntley & Palmers, saying that land owned by them and used as allotments is not likely to be required before 1960. The piece concludes, “Now we have this assurance we hope that it will be possible to let many of the vacant plots on this site.”(9).

Horticultural Show poster from the 1950s (D/EX1615/8/1). By permission of the Berkshire Record Office (11).

Garden Topics reported in December 1960, that the Huntley & Palmers Horticultural Annual Show that year had been, “…undoubtedly the most successful show to date…”. Show entries were 50% higher than the previous year and 33% above the previous record (10).

References

 

(1)    This chapter does little more than scratch the surface of what could be a very fertile area for research into the business and industrial history of Reading.

(2)    H & G Simonds Ltd. The Story of the Bridge Street Brewery, 1785-1980. This is an updated version of “The Road to Worton Grange”, by T.A.B. Corley. It was written by Tony Corley and Raymond Simonds to commemorate the H&G Simonds Kennet Riverside Information Board on 26 February 2009. http://www.simondsfamily.me.uk. accessed 13 October 2012.

(3)    The Hop Leaf Gazette, September 1947.

(4)    The Hop Leaf Gazette, December 1947.

(5)    The main source for the history of Suttons is Suttons Seeds, A History 1806 – 2006, Earley Local History Group. So far it has not been possible to ascertain exactly where the allotments were, but they may have been contiguous with the Recreation Ground.

(6)    The history of the Federation of Horticultural and Allotment Associations of Reading now the Berkshire Horticulture Federation. Notes by Bert Cowland. BRO library.

(7)    Administrative History covering records of Reading Show D/EX1613. (BRO). This includes a memoir written by Frederick Yates daughter.

(8)    I am very grateful to Mr John Snow and Mr Tony Mattingley for sharing their memories with me.

(9)    Garden Topics, September 1954. Reading Library.

(10)  Garden Topics, December 1960. Reading Library.

(11)  D/EX1614/8/1 (BRO). With thanks to the Berkshire Record Office.

© Evelyn Williams 2012

PDF here: 23 3B’s and allotments

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Scours Lane

The Gate to Scours Lane Allotments

The walk from my allotment at Waterloo Meadows to Scours Lane via Prospect Park is about four miles. It is an interesting walk that takes you up hill from the valley of the Kennet and down to the Thames.

Reading Borough Council has a long relationship with land along the Thames. On the north bank, Caversham Court was purchased in 1931 (1) and on the south bank of the Thames, land for the Thameside Promenade was acquired in 1907 (2).  Tilehurst was incorporated in the 1911 Reading boundary extensions. One of the drivers for the inclusion of Tilehurst, was its need for sewage improvements. Bradfield Rural District Council had been considering the erection of its own sewage works at Scours Lane. This was not something that Reading were happy to see happen so close to the Promenade.

Water Pump

The area here between the railway line and the river is home to Reading Town FC football stadium, a sports ground, and the allotments. It is next to the Reading Festival site on the east. Along the river it can be reached by the Thames Path which continues along the bank beyond the Promenade, leaving the River briefly with a steep climb up to the Oxford Road at the Roebuck Inn and down again into Purley and Mapledurham Lock.

Almost a Cottage Garden

Allotments first appear on 1931 maps of this area on the field adjacent and to the west of the current allotment site. In 1950 the owner was approached but did not want to sell the land and the process of compulsory purchase of 13.516 acres for allotments began (3). Early in 1958, Tilehurst Horticultural Association informed the committee that allotment holders had been given notice to quit with effect from February 1959, presumably this was from the existing private allotment site. The committee resolved to draw the attention of the Town Planning and Buildings Committee to this (4). Later in the year the tenants petitioned the corporation to acquire land near the allotments (5). At the end of 1960 the compulsory purchase of a larger piece of land went through and 36.463 acres between the Thames and the railway line were purchased (6). A sports ground was to be provided on some of this land and the committee noted that the allotments requirements should be borne in mind (7). 1960 maps show the area as allotments. Finally in 1966 it is recorded that 13.516 acres were allocated for allotments (8).

Recycling meets Industrial Art

The site’s special character is its uniqueness for the number of completely closed-in private plots and also some exceptionally beautiful plots. In the allotment categories for Reading in Bloom 2012 Scours Lane allotment holders won in both categories: most attractive and most diverse.

 

Wildflowers

FACT PANEL

No. of plots: (9) 203
Full plot equivalent: (10) 180.7
Date allotments established: by 1960, recorded 1966
Date taken on by Council: 1960
Previous use: open land/ farm
Status: (11) Statutory

References

 

(1)    See the chapter on Caversham Court Allotments.

(2)    Alan Alexander, Borough Government and Politics. Reading 1835-1985.

(3)    Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 20 March 1950. R/AC1/3/103. (BRO)

(4)    Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 17 March 1958. R/AC1/3/123. (BRO)

(5)    Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 14 July 1958. R/AC1/3/125. (BRO)

(6)    Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 19 September 1960. R/AC1/3/129. (BRO)

(7)    Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 19 November 1962. R/AC1/3/133. (BRO)

(8)    Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 17 January 1966. R/AC1/3/139. (BRO)

(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. Adjusted to include the 68 additional plots for tenants displaced from Cow Lane.

(10)  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.

(11)  Reading Borough Council 2005 Allotment Plan.

© Evelyn Williams 2012

PDF here:22 Scours Lane

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