This walk around the Christchurch Conservation Area starts at the top of Highgrove Street and Christchurch Road from where we can take in the view north into Reading down Highgrove Street. The Blade had not been built when this conservation area was first defined in 1987.
Views and vistas are an important consideration in conservation areas. Here at the Whitley Pump we like this view very much which is why we included it in our Historypin collection Katesgrove Views.
The numbers on the route map are referred to in the text below in bold italics.
Start (no 1) : The first house in the conservation area is Whitley Villa surgery. In winter, when there are no leaves on the trees, a ‘Whitley Villa’ ghost sign painted on the side of the building can be seen.
Whitley Villa stands alone, then to the east there is a group of four three-storey houses with basements, eight two-storey houses and then four more three-storey houses with basements. This strip of houses was known as Whitley Crescent (no 2) in the 1840s and by then all but one can be identified. The extra house was inserted between Whitley Villa and No 1 Whitley Crescent. There was a building on the site before this but it was not named as a separate dwelling until the 1880s. In the 1888 directory Mrs Slowcombe (sometimes Miss Slocombe) lived at Christchurch Cottage and Miss Barber at Whitley Villa. The external appearance of Christchurch Cottage, now 3 Christchurch Road, differs from its neighbouring three terraced houses.
Directions: Cross Christchurch Road at the pedestrian crossing (no 3) for a better view from the south side of the road.
Owning a house in a conservation area presents additional planning hurdles to any changes, and in some respects the building and its appearance become a public asset which can be commented on in a negative as well as positive manner. This is what the conservation area appraisal says about 27-33 Christchurch Road, which as we have discovered are all listed :
27-33 Christchurch Road. Grade II. Group of 1840s three storey terraced properties similar to 3-9. Front and flank elevations stucco rendered and painted white, therefore highly visible in the street scene. Little in the way of adverse alteration. Interesting front doors. Frontage railings intact [ref 1].
Four cottages were advertised to let in Whitley Crescent in 1825. They were described as:
FOUR Genteel COTTAGES, adjacent to the Borough of Reading, in the Hamlet of Whitley, called Whitley Crescent, situate on an exceedingly healthy spot, commanding one of the finest views in or near the Borough, and supplied by a beautiful Spring of soft Water. The Premises consist of two bedrooms, two good attics, back and front parlour, kitchen wash-house, coal and wine cellars, pantry, and small garden, at the low rent of twenty pounds per annum.
Apply on the Premises, or of Mr Richard Knight, builder, Blandy’s Wharf, Reading [ref 2].
Mr Richard Knight, the builder, died in 1829 and in 1831 six leasehold properties that had belonged to him, were advertised for sale by auction with some adjacent building land “situated on that pleasant and much admired eminence WHITLEY CRESCENT” [ref 3].
Whitley Crescent at this time was not within the boundary of Reading Borough (see 1879 OS map above) and so in 1836 when the leasehold of the newly built Whitley Villa was advertised for sale, this was one of the selling points.
This situation commands every advantage of a town residence, as well as the most beautiful views of the surrounding country, and are not subject to the local rates of the borough [ref 4].
In the early 1840s the properties were occupied by:
(first named resident) [ref 5]
|Whitley Villa||Jane Browne||T. Teighe Esq|
|1||Sarah Jordan||Mrs Jordan|
|2||Elizabeth Clark||Miss Stevenson|
|3||Mary Ann Cowderoy||Miss Cowderoy|
|4||Hannah Clifton||Miss Hartman|
|5||Sarah Ward||Mrs Ward|
|7||William Lane||Mr William Lane|
|8||Simon Peter Andrew||Mr P Andrewes|
|9||Joseph Huntly||Joseph Huntley Sen.|
|10||George Carpenata||Signor Carpenata,
French and Italian Teacher
|11||Harriet Elkins||Mrs Elkins|
|12||Annie Dove (or Dore)||Mrs Dore|
|13||Ellena Dodson||Mr William Attwells|
|14||John Fred Benwell||The Rev Charles Benwell|
|15||John Ball||James Ball Esq.|
The census gives details of the profession, trade or employment of the occupants or that they are of independent means. Many of the residents were of independent means, but Hannah Clifton was a schoolmistress and William Lane a schoolmaster, George Carpenata a professor of languages, and John Benwell a clergyman.
By 1842 some of the residents seem to have moved on and in some cases the names in the directory are spelt slightly differently or a different first name is given with the same family name. At least one of the names stands out and that is Joseph Huntly (sic), in the census, and Joseph Huntley Sen., in the directory, who was the founder of Huntley & Palmers biscuits.
The story of the founding of Reading’s internationally famous biscuit maker is well told in many other places, as is the equally interesting history of Huntley & Palmers biscuit tins made by Huntley, Boorne and Stevens [ref 7 & 8], there is also a dedicated gallery at Reading Museum. It is not our intention to repeat it here except in so far as it relates to No 9 Whitley Crescent, now 21 Christchurch Road.
The eligibility of Joseph Huntley to vote for a property in London Street was challenged by petitioners in 1838 because Whitley Crescent was then outside the Reading borough boundary. In evidence to the committee of March that year which decided if registrations were valid, Joseph’s son Thomas Huntley said that his father, his sister and the family had moved to Whitley Crescent 14 or 15 months earlier but he had remained in London Street. The committee decision that his was ‘a good vote’ was based on the connections between London Street and Whitley Crescent and their business partnership [ref 9 & 10].
Joseph Huntley retired in 1838 and died in 1849. His elder son Thomas Huntley continued the biscuit making business and in 1841 went into partnership with George Palmer. His younger son Joseph Huntley junior founded Huntley, Boorne and Stevens which made the biscuit tins.
Reading’s boundaries expanded to include Whitley Crescent in 1887. Before this, the beating of the bounds in 1874 describes how
…the party crossed Kendrick Road and proceeded along the back of Whitley Crescent to the spot where at the last perambulation (1861) King’s Head Pond was situated, and through which the mace had to be passed. Since then the pond has been filled up and the corner considerably improved [ref 11].
The area at the top of Whitley, along Christchurch Road and down Basingstoke Road became more built up in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Next stop: Christchurch, which we reach next week.
- Conservation Area Appraisals. Christchurch starts on page 16 (of 371) and there is a map on page 39.
- Berkshire Chronicle 15 October 1825
- Reading Mercury 11 August 1831
- Berkshire Chronicle 26 November 1836
- 1841 Census
- 1842 Reading Post Office Directory (digitised)
- Corley, T.A.B. Huntley & Palmers of Reading 1822-1972
- The Huntley and Palmers Collection
- Reading Mercury 17 March 1838
- Berkshire Chronicle 17 March 1838
- Reading Mercury 17 October 1874
Newspaper references from British Newspaper Archive, courtesy of British Library, online at findmypast.uk (subscription required), unless stated otherwise. Reading Central Library also has a full set of copies on the Berkshire Chronicle and Reading Mercury.
Census records online at findmypast.uk (subscription required), but can be accessed at Berkshire Record Office and death records, unless from newspaper reports or reference works, online at findmypast.uk (subscription required), but can be accessed at Berkshire Record Office.
- Historypin – Katesgrove Views
- Conserving Katesgrove – An introduction to Christchurch Conservation Area
- Reading Borough Council Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings