After much public interest and a prolonged campaign it is not surprising that the first application to be heard at Wednesday 7 December Planning Applications Committee was the proposed demolition of the After Dark Club. But it is not just the club that was under threat.
There is a section of wall at the rear of the club on St Giles Close that once formed part of the Huntley, Boorne & Stevens tin works. The workshop from c. 1930 is pictured above; the surviving wall is on the left.
The application to demolish the club and build ten flats on the site of the club also proposed the demolition of the wall, probably the last vestige of the tin works that made Huntley & Palmers biscuit tins.
The frontage of the workshop on London Street c1974 is pictured below, with 114 London Street on the right of the image.
The story of how Joseph Huntley senior started his biscuit shop at the top of London Street in 1822 is well known. His son, also called Joseph, had an ironmonger’s shop on the opposite side of London Street where he began making large tins to transport the biscuits. Decorative tins were first made in 1868 and there are lots of examples of these in the Huntley & Palmers gallery at Reading Museum or online.
Joseph Huntley senior retired in 1838 and went to live at Whitley Crescent on Christchurch Road. His son Thomas Huntley was responsible for the biscuit factory, and Joseph Huntley junior manufactured the tins. Around this time, the Huntleys were joined by brothers William and George Palmer. William Palmer was apprenticed to Joseph Huntley in the ironmonger’s shop and in 1841 George Palmer went into partnership with Thomas.
Huntley & Palmers stopped making biscuits in Reading in 1976 and in the 1980s biscuit tin production stopped too. Huntley, Boorne & Stevens was bought by the Linpac Group in 1985.
The factory site grew over the years and stretched between London Street, Crown Street, Southampton Street and Church Street. The frontage at the southern end of London Street is now flats and offices and the centre of the works a small housing estate.
Councillor Brock said:
The point about the wall, the relic of the tin works I think is very important actually, the last vestige remaining… of the tin works and it should be preserved. It is… part of the heritage of this town and its important industrial heritage, and so it shouldn’t simply be dismissed as it was here (in the planning application) as of little merit… [00:15:14] .
Councillors agreed to the officers’ recommendation to reject the application (161935).
- Planning Application 161935 – The After Dark Club, 112 London Street
- Planning Applications Committee 7 December 2016 – papers (at time of publishing this was dated 9 December 2016 and webcast [starts at 00:05:15]
- The Huntley & Palmers Collection website
- A Walk Around Christchurch Conservation Area – First Stop
Evelyn Williams was one of three who spoke at the planning committee to object to the application.