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The Hook & Tackle on Katesgrove Lane re-opened under new management one year ago today on 4 December 2014.

This pub is the lone survivor of Katesgrove’s industrial quarter along Katesgrove Lane and the River Kennet, looked down on by traffic atop the Inner Distribution Road (IDR).

The industrial heritage of the pub is revealed in its original name ‘The Tanners Arms’.

Map of Reading - Post Office Directory 1842

Katesgrove Lane and Katesgrove House between the Kennet and Horn Street / Southampton Street (Reading Post Office Directory 1842)

The area around the pub, between the Kennet and busy Horn and Southampton Streets, was industrialised but otherwise undeveloped until the mid nineteenth century. The 1842 post office directory Katesgrove lists a number of people and businesses in the area, including Mr William Exall, John Munday (beer seller), William S. Fynmore (coal and salt merchant), Mr George A. Barrett, James White (coal and timber merchant), Richard Billing and Sons (brick kiln), Mr Thomas Philbrick, George Gunnell (beer shop), and Barrett, Exall & Andrewes (engineers and ironfounders).

In this PO directory, Orchard Street (now Parthia Close) is mentioned sitting between the entries for George Gunnell (beer shop) and Mr Thomas Philbrick on Katesgrove Lane. In later years the address of the Tanners Arms was 7-9 Orchard Street, so George Gunnell probably ran the beer house [ref 1] that became known as the Tanners Arms.

George Gunnell was still a beer house keeper in 1845 when he ran into difficulties with the authorities. He was mentioned in two reports in the Reading Mercury. On the first occasion he had opened before 1 pm on Sunday 19 January, and on the second he closed late on Friday 18 July. He was fined 5 shillings (25p) and 10 shillings (50p) respectively.

The beer house had become known as the Tanners Arms by 1854; the landlady Mary Gray appeared in court for failing to billet two soldiers as she was required to do. She was fined 40 shillings (£2).

Extract from 1879 OS Map - Philbrick's Tannery

The area around the Tanners Arms (dark purple) in 1879

In 1876, H&G Simonds, whose brewery was just over the other side of the Kennet, paid £795 for the pub at auction. By then the area around the pub at the corner of Orchard Street and Mundesley Street was much more developed with both housing and roads. Philbrick Tannery’s bark store was opposite the pub on Orchard Street, and the tannery itself was between Katesgrove Lane and the Kennet.

We have some idea of what was drunk at the Tanners Arms at this time because in 1876 H&G Simonds advertised their products in the local press, this included India pale ale, Intermediate pale ale, S.B. pale ale (all by the barrel and kilderkin), and Family pale ale and porter (by the gallon). By the 1880s S.B. pale ale represented over half the output of the brewery [ref 2].

County Lock Photograph c.1898; Philbrick's Tannery is on the right with the Louvred Windows - courtesy Reading LIbrary

County lock photograph c.1898; Philbrick’s tannery is on the right with the louvred windows (courtesy of Reading library)

The temperance movement influenced licensing decisions and reforms at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1903, licensing justices commissioned a statistical report on pubs in Reading describing them, their neighbourhoods, and the distance to the nearest pubs. The Tanners Arms is described thus :

Bar, bar parlour, taproom, two bedrooms for travellers, &c. No other refreshments provided.

Stabling for three horses and coachhouse. One w.c. and one urinal for customers and for private use.

Length of street, 167 yds.

Street consists of small houses occupied by the working classes, of which the neighbourhood is composed. Total number in street: One Beerhouse “on” (ref 3).

This house is in good repair and clean, and used by the working classes.

The three nearest licensed premises were described at the time (ref 4) :

  • Alehouse, the Little Crown, Southampton Street, 150 yards
  • Beerhouse, Engineers Arms, Katesgrove Lane, 20 yards,
  • Beer “off” Simonds’ brewery offices, Fobney Street, 305 yds.

Legislation allowed pubs to be closed if they were considered unnecessary and for compensation to be paid [ref 5]. The need for the Tanners Arms was challenged in 1920 and 1923, but it retained a licence. Its closest neighbour, the Engineers Arms, was also a Simonds pub and was closed in 1938. Its licence was transferred to the new Engineers Arms in Whitley (now demolished).

H&G Simonds merged with Courage Brewery in 1960 and the Tanners Arms became a Courage pub.

The Ski Jump at the end of the IDR in 1984, Hook & Tackle is the on th eleft painted white - photo by Gareth Thomas - Courtesy of Reading Library

The ski jump at the end of the IDR in 1984, The Hook & Tackle is on the left painted white (photo by Gareth Thomas, courtesy of Reading library)

The area around the pub changed dramatically in the Courage years with the building of the IDR. Everything between the pub and the edge of the Kennet disappeared; houses along the northerly end of Orchard Street and along Katesgrove Lane were demolished and the site of the tannery disappeared under the IDR.

Extract from 1979 OS Map

The area around the Tanners Arms (dark purple) in 1979 (extract from OS map)

Courage sold the pub in 1984 and it became the free house it is today. An extension was built to make the premises much larger.

Hook & Tackle in 1987, photograph by Mr Butler - courtesy Reading Library

Hook & Tackle in 1987 before the extension was built. Note the barrels outside and St Giles’ church spire in the distance (photograph by Mr Butler – courtesy Reading Library)

Now, one year on from the 2014 re-opening under new ownership, the story of Hook & Tackle seems to have a happy ending.

Hook & Tackle - 2 December 2015


Some of the research on which this piece is based was undertaken at the end of 2014, when a small community group and I researched the history of a group of pubs in images in the collection of Reading Museum. At that time the Hook & Tackle was closed. I am very grateful to my colleagues in the group for sharing their knowledge and to Reading Museum for this opportunity. The image collection can be viewed at Lost Pubs of Reading.

In November 2015 I gave a talk on behalf of Katesgrove Community Association on Katesgrove pub history, particularly the Tanners Arms, at the re-opened Hook & Tackle.


  1. Beer houses were a new category of premises where alcohol could be purchased and consumed, introduced by the 1830 Beerhouse Act. Any householder who paid rates could purchase a beerhouse license for 2 guineas (£2.10). Nationally, the act resulted in almost a doubling of the number of licensed premises.
  2. Corley, T.A.B. Simonds’ Brewery at Reading 1760 -1960. Berkshire Archaeological Journal Vol 68, 1975-76.
  3. Beerhouse “on”, is a beer house licensed for consumption of beer on the premises.
  4. Alehouses were licensed for the consumption of alcohol by magistrates. Beerhouses (see ref 1) were created in 1830. Although they were subject to the same licensing regime from 1869 onwards, they are still described differently in records, often the term ‘ante 1869 beerhouse’ is used. Beer “off” is a licence to sell beer for consumption off the premises. Over the centuries there have been many changes to the licensing regime resulting in a variety of descriptions of public houses and other premises licensed to sell alcohol.
  5. 1904 Licensing Act and 1910 Licensing (Consolidation) Act
  6. County Borough Of Reading. Licensed Houses: REPORTS of the committee of borough justices appointed to visit Licensed houses to obtain Statistical Information, and of the Clerk to the Justices, and Statistical Information obtained. 1903.
  7. Hook & Tackle
  8. Reading Museum Online Collection – pubs
  9. Reading Library Illustrations – pubs
  10. Reading Museum – Lost Pubs of Reading
  11. Dearing, John. Reading Pubs