The MERL’s new yarn bomb

Thank you to all our readers and regular and occasional contributors for making it a wonderful year on Katesgrove Hill. We hope that you continue to enjoy reading or contributing to the Whitley Pump in 2020.

In 2019 the Whitley Pump published about 600 articles to our website. Here are some of those that we and our readers enjoyed most.


It has been a good year for archaeology at the Whitley Pump, with two fascinating digs on Silver Street. The ever-welcoming Thames Valley Archaeological Services held an open afternoon when the first dig was complete. Local sketcher Huma Jehan was able to sketch the dig too.

In November, we visited the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology to look at the Cypriot antiquities in their collection donated by Ellen Barry in 1913. She was the daughter of William Exall of the Barrett, Exall, Andrewes ironworks on Katesgrove Lane and his wife Frances Andrewes, who was the sister of Charles Andrewes, another partner in the ironworks.

Art and Artists

Back in 2016, the Whitley Pump interviewed Katesgrove artist Robert Fitzmaurice and Peter Driver who were collaborating on Wordup!. This year we followed Robert Fitzmaurice to Greenham Common for an exciting day out to visit his exhibition NO EDEN.

Coincidentally, Peter Driver’s latest project called A Walk for Stanley also passes through Greenham Common on a walk from Cookham to the Sandham Memorial Chapel. The route, mostly along the Thames and then the Kennet, includes Katesgrove.


This year, we interviewed BBC Radio 3 broadcaster Fiona Talkington, who lives near Christchurch Green. She reminisced about the shops on Christchurch Road when she was growing up and the time before the area was overtaken by traffic.

Kobani House, at the former Red Lion pub on Southampton Street, was occupied this autumn as a Kurdish Community Centre. The owner of the property failed in their first attempt to evict the residents in early December. We understand that the squatters have since been given notice to leave.

Local history

We continue to investigate local history and, after a few years on the shelf gathering dust, finally published the story of the Four Horseshoes public house on Basingstoke Road.

This year we participated again in Heritage Open Days and led two Discovering Katesgrove tours in the Story of Reading Gallery at Reading Museum. Heritage Open Days are a great opportunity for us to meet some of our readers face to face and connect with a wider community in Reading.


Each week we publish a list of planning applications in our area and among them there have been some of particular significance.

The saga of the future of the Woodley Arms continues with the withdrawal of the latest application to build co-living units which would have replaced the approved application for student accommodation.

We were perturbed by the proposal for an illuminated LED advertising display on the north wall of the Wellington Arms on Whitley Street, and even more so when an illuminated screen was installed before advertising consent had been granted. Reading Borough Council (RBC) planners refused the application on 20 December.


There were three elections this year: local council elections, EU elections and a general election.

We interviewed all four candidates who were standing in Katesgrove in the local elections on 2 May: Liam Challenger (Labour), who won the seat, Louise Keane (Green Party), Peter Kinsley (Liberal Democrat) and Natalie Greenstreet (Conservative Party).

At the RBC annual general meeting in May, Church ward councillor Paul Woodward was elected Mayor. We have followed some of the events that he has taken part in including a celbration of 100 years of Reading Motorbuses that involved a recreation of the original route of the first motorbus.

We attended the general election count at Rivermead on the night of 12 December and early morning of 13 December. Both Reading MPs retained their seats: Matt Rodda for Reading East and Alok Sharma for Reading West.


Our enthusiastic review team, Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands, have attended an impressive catalogue of theatrical productions including almost the entire programme of the Progress Theatre on The Mount in Redlands and the Shinfield Players in Whitley Wood Lane.

We were also out and about during the Reading Fringe Festival again this year.

Wildlife and nature

Whitley wildlife enthusiast David Turner contributed an article almost every month about the urban wildlife of Whitley illustrated with images from his garden.

Adrian Lawson wrote about wildlife on Coley Meadows in Winter flocks on Coley Meadows and invited fellow explorers to a walk into the wilds of Coley. Jane Burnett wrote about the magnificent Wellingtonias that we have all around us and, in California (Katesgrove) dreaming, told the story of how they might have arrived here.

Cintra park redwood

Redwood near Cintra Park, Reading

A happy new year to all our readers!

  1. Thames Valley Archaeological Services
  2. Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology
  3. Heritage Open Days
  4. Reading Borough Council Elections and Voting & Planning
  5. Progress Theatre
  6. Shinfield Players
  7. Reading Fringe