Coley Bridge

Coley pedestrian bridge over the IDR

Graham Turner presented a film about the route of the Inner Distribution Road (IDR) before it was built, at the History of Reading Society (HoRS) on 15 January. The venue, the Abbey Baptist Church, was almost full and the audience were entranced as changing scenes of the streets of Reading in the 1960s and 70s appeared before their eyes.

The late Doug Noyes originally made and narrated the film and it included some up-to-date photographs taken by his daughter Lyn Ford. She gave the film to Graham in four sections and he merged it into one film that lasts about an hour. Doug Noyes was president of Reading Film and Video Makers Club from 1967-1978 when most of the work on the IDR was taking place.

The film followed the whole route of the IDR and images showed what was there before the IDR as well as the new views that appeared when buildings were demolished.

Highlights included several photographs of the area around Katesgrove Lane and Mundesley Street and the narrator said of one post-IDR image “…the clean lines of the flyover are quite attractive from the foot of Southampton Street”.

Forbury Road was also featured, showing the remains of the plummery wall of Reading Abbey in the process of excavation before the road was widened. The wall is now buried under the central reservation.

The narrator listed the shops, businesses and pubs that would be lost as the town centre of Reading and the surrounding roads were redeveloped in the 1970s. Some of the new buildings such as the Civic Offices and Chatham Street car park have already disappeared.

HoRS chair David Cliffe commented at the end of the evening that the audience probably should have brought maps with them to navigate the route better.

The Whitley Pump met up with Graham a couple of days before the event. He is the founder of the History and Events of Coley Reading Facebook group that he started in 2016 to tell the true story of Coley. He has now been joined by Joe Doak who assists with moderating the site, Ann Mitchell who has a great deal of knowledge about Old Coley and helps out at functions and Nick Hopton who answers questions with research and maps.

Graham grew up in Bright Street within the sight and smell of H & G Simonds maltings where his father was a maltster. He left Bright Street when he got married in 1969 and moved to Emmer Green but later he returned to Coley. His parents were the last to leave Bright Street before it was demolished.

Graham Turner

He was contacted by old friends after he set up the group and he added “a lot of the younger people on the site are searching for their family history” but older people “have so much information stored away they don’t know what to do with it.”

We talked about Coley and the notorious slums of Bosier Square and courts such as Alder Court located off Coley Steps. Conditions in the buildings were very bad and water came from standpipes that froze in winter. The area was demolished in the 1930s and many people moved to the new houses being built in Whitley.

The area of Coley Steps was never rebuilt and some of it is now playing fields for Coley School or lies under Cheriton Court and the IDR.

Graham said about the film, “there are mini stories all the way round that people can relate to because it comes into their area.” He wants as many people as possible to see the film and if you would like to show the film to your organisation you can contact Graham by private message through the Facebook group.

All in all a very good night out for the Friends of the IDR.

  1. History of Reading Society
  2. Reading Film and Video Makers Club
  3. History of Coley, Reading Facebook group
  4. Coley Primary School Reunion
  5. Coley Local History Group, Talking of Coley: an oral history 1900-1950 & More talking of Coley: an oral history 1900-1950
  6. The IDR on the Whitley Pump