The Woodley Arms on Waldeck Street closed in 2012 and now looks sad, abandoned and derelict as it awaits demolition. The public house was built as part of the redevelopment of Spring Gardens in the 1970s and was the pub’s third incarnation.
The new building replaced a public house on Mount Street that was demolished to make way for the Whitley Street estate. The older building was a mock Tudor redevelopment of the original beerhouse undertaken by Morlands Brewery.
Records for the beerhouse start in 1869 when it received a beerhouse certificate [ref 1]. Between 1830 and 1869, beerhouses came under a separate licensing regime from other public houses. In 1869 they were require to apply to magistrates for a licence in the same way as other licensed premises so it is probable that the Woodley Arms was already operating at that time.
Reading had 108 public houses and 169 beerhouses in 1869. At the annual licensing sessions, magistrates took the opportunity to refuse licences to five premises on Silver Street said to be the “resorts of thieves and prostitutes” [ref 2].
The then licensee was William Sayer, who was described in the 1871 census as a grocer and beerseller at 4 and 5 Mount Street, later renumbered to 50 and 52 Mount Street [ref 3]. At that time the residential area around Spring Gardens was growing fast.
By 1875, when brewery names were first included in licensing records, the Woodley Arms was part of the Berkshire Brewery estate. The brewery was at the junction of King’s Road and Victoria Street and was auctioned on 1 August 1883 with its tied estate [ref 4]. The lease of the Woodley Arms was purchased by Ferguson’s Brewery for £60 [ref 5].
Other pubs included in the auction were:
- The Berkshire, adjoining the brewery,
- The Cambridge, at the corner of Upper Crown Street and Southampton Street,
- The Eagle, Baker Street,
- The Brickmakers’ Arms, Coley,
- The Clifton, 18 Caversham Road,
- The White Lion, 39 Chatham Street,
- The Bristol, 95 Castle Street,
- The Clarence, 11 Broad Street,
- The Life Boat, 39 St John’s Road,
- The Crown, 35 King’s Road,
- The Vine Hotel, at the corner of Broad Street and West Street.
In 1903, when the landlord was George Hayden, the pub had three bars and one bedroom for travellers. It had two entrances one on Mount Street and one on Waldeck Street [ref 6].
Mount Street was described thus:
Street consists of cottages occupied by the working classes of which the neighbourhood is entirely comprised.
The brewery Morlands of Abingdon had had an interest in Ferguson’s since 1914 and took over full control of its brewery and pubs in 1944. The last brewery at the Woodley Arms was Greene King; their identity on the pub sign has since been covered over.
The opening of the new public house in 1973 was the subject of a one page advertising feature in the Evening Post [ref 7]. It described the new pub as:
…designed along very spacious lines, and there will be two bars, an L-shaped saloon bar and what the Carters plan to call the Woodley Bar.
The theme of the saloon bar is predominantly one of wood and copper. There is a beautiful polished wood ceiling and a gleaming copper counter to the bar.
The Post article went on to say:
If the happy atmosphere of the old Woodley Arms is anything to go by, and there is every reason that it is, the new premises are going to be equally as good.
Adie and Viv Carter moved from the Woodley Arms on Mount Street to the new pub on Waldeck Street and were there throughout its life. They are remembered as the longest serving landlord and landlady in Reading.
Previous landlords and landladies at the Woodley Arms
Landlords at the Woodley Arms held their licences for long periods from the end of the nineteenth century, which was always a good indicator of a well-managed establishment [ref 8].
Landlady Mary Ann Sayer was the widow of the first known landlord William Sayer. She married Robert Spencer Vernon Mitchell at Christ Church in 1874 and they returned to run Woodley Arms in 1876.
Robert Mitchell failed to keep a clean sheet with the licensing authorities. In May 1880 he was fined 12/- (60p) and 8/- (40p) costs for having the pub opened on Sunday. Although his licence was not endorsed, he left later that same year and by 1891 he was a shopkeeper at 47 De Beauvoir Road.
|Landlord or landlady||Dates behind the bar|
|William Sayer||pre 1869 to 4 September 1872|
|Mary Ann Sayer||7 April 1873 to 30 November 1874|
|Charles Baggs||30 November 1874 to 22 May 1876|
|Robert Spencer Vernon Mitchell||22 May 1876 to 2 December 1881|
|George Perris||2 December 1881 to 15 December 1882|
|Henry Thomas Smith||15 December 1882 to 2 May 1891|
|Charles Colyer||2 May 1891 to 8 April 1892|
|John Rolph||8 April 1892 to 14 May 1892|
|Samuel Cole||14 May 1892 to 27 July 1892|
|George Hayden||27 July 1892 to 30 July 1907|
|Job Patey||30 July 1907 to 9 October 1930|
|William Richard Russell||9 October 1930 to 11 February 1960|
|Charles Andrew James Palmer||11 February 1960 to ?|
|Gordon Griffin [ref 9]||? to 1970|
|Adie and Viv Carter||c. 1970 to 2012|
A version of this article originally appeared in the Whitley Pump in June 2016 as The past, present and unknown future of the Woodley Arms.
I am grateful to John Dearing for sharing his notes on Katesgrove pubs.
- Register of alehouse licences PS/R 14/1. Between 1830 and 1869, beerhouses came under a separate licensing regime. In 1869 they were require to apply to magistrates for a licence in the same way as other licensed premises.
- Berkshire Chronicle 4 September 1869 p6 via findmypast.co.uk
- 1881 Census via findmypast.co.uk
- Reading Mercury 14 July 1883. The auction was as a result of the judgement in a legal case Romanes v Grey’s Brewery in 1883. Grey’s Brewery Ltd, Henley was wound up in 1884. The premises were acquired in 1896 by Brakspear & Sons Ltd, brewing ceased in 1897.
- Reading Mercury 11 August 1883 via findmypast.co.uk
- 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.
- Evening Post 23 August 1973 via findmypast.co.uk
- Licence registers in the Berkshire Record Office covering the period 1869-1961: PS/R 14/1, PS/R 14/2, PS/R 14/3, PS/R 14/5, PS/R 14/7, PS/R 14/10 and PS/R 14/11.
- Reading Evening Post 22 April 1971 via findmypast.co.uk