On both corners of Vicarage Road with Christchurch Road are two of the oldest buildings in the conservation area, both of which are now used by Abbey Junior School.
Last week we explored the area around the Hillingdon Prince Hotel and are now standing at the corner of Vicarage Road and Christchurch Road (no 10).
The numbers on the route map are referred to in the text below in bold italics.
On the west corner, Christchurch Vicarage (no 11), 2 Vicarage Road, is Grade II listed (1113601). It dates from 1871 and was designed by Alfred Waterhouse. As well as being famous for the Natural History Museum in London, he was the architect of some of Reading’s stunning buildings; the closest of which to the Whitley Pump is the Rising Sun Arts Centre on Silver Street.
Contrasting with the red and grey brick of the old vicarage is the white and grey brick of the 30 Christchurch Road on the opposite corner. Here Abbey Junior School has expanded beyond the confines of Somerleaze, the house built for William Darter in 1865. William Darter had a business as a house-decorator on London Street and lived at Somerleaze from his retirement until his death at the age of 94 . His funeral was held close by at Christ Church on 17 April 1897 [ref 1]. He served two terms as Mayor of Reading from 1850-51 and 1851-52.
William Darter may have thought about moving away from Somerleaze in 1880 as it was advertised to let, which gives a description of the seven bedroomed property and the area as it was at the time [ref 2].
TO BE LET. Furnished or Unfurnished, a very superior GENTLEMAN’S RESIDENCE, close to Reading; about a mile from the stations, near a beautiful church, and a post office, in a high and healthy situation, commanding most extensive views; containing handsome entrance hall, three reception rooms, seven bed and two dressing rooms, large bath room (hot and cold water supply) excellent domestic apartments, conservatory, beautiful lawn and large gardens, with gardener’s cottage, the whole about three acres.
Three packs of hounds hunt the immediate neighbour hood. There is abundance of fishing in the locality.
For particulars apply to Egginton and Preston, Land Agents, Reading.
Walk down Vicarage Road. It is clear that an entrance in the wall of the vicarage has been filled in at some time in the past and this is commented on negatively in the conservation area appraisal. All these little things matter when considering the merits of buildings in a conservation area.
Brick infill to garage wall not strictly in keeping. Front boundary walls retained.
Another important aspect of a conservation area are trees and so the new vicarage at 4 Vicarage Road, although a modern building, has a Wellingtonia in the garden which is protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and is worthy of mention in the appraisal.
Turn the corner into Christchurch Gardens and walk as far as the junction with Northumberland Avenue and admire the view south (no 12). The M4 which forms an important modern boundary to southern limits of the town melts away.
Continue walking along Christchurch Gardens and turn right into Glebe Road (no 13).
The buildings on the east of the road are not within the conservation area because they are modern, or in the case of an older property, because it was felt to be marred by pebble dash. The houses on the west side are included and are in a variety of styles. The area bounded by Glebe Road (previously Church Road), Christchurch Gardens, Basingstoke Road and Christchurch Road was sold in lots for development at the end of the nineteenth century.
Before leaving Glebe Road, take time to see the view of Christchurch from the west.
We will continue the walk from the junction of Glebe Road and Christchurch Gardens next Thursday.
- Reading Mercury 17 April 1897. The report states that Mr Darter’s two terms were 1850-51 and 1852-53 which was not the case, they were continuous from 1850.
- Berkshire Chronicle 8 May 1880
- Conservation Area Appraisals. Christchurch starts on page 16 (of 371) and there is a map on page 39.
Newspaper references from British Newspaper Archive, courtesy of British Library, online at find my past (subscription required), unless stated otherwise. Reading Central Library also has a full set of copies on the Berkshire Chronicle and Reading Mercury.
Census records are online at find my past (subscription required), and can be accessed at Berkshire Record Office. Death records, unless from newspaper reports or reference works, were obtained online at find my past (subscription required), but can be accessed at Berkshire Record Office.