17 Jun 2015

Around the Forbury Gardens

photo - archive collection Reading Museum Service
Although we lived some way out of my home town during my early years, my parents and I would walk to my paternal grandma's as her house was in east Reading.  In fact we didn't have a car until I was in my teens and we walked or used buses to get around Berkshire.  There was also trolley bus routes through the town.

However, life goes on and changes and on a recent visit to Reading I enjoyed seeing the new buses with their bright colours for each route and some of the interesting designs on the paintwork (which I featured on my May Scavenger Hunt photo challenge).

The usual walk to my grandmother's house or into town in dry months was often along the tow path by the Thames, eventually passing the streets of Victorian houses around Huntley and Palmer's biscuit factory  Then we could cross the River Kennet where it flowed into the Thames by walking over a horseshoe-shaped bridge and on through a recreation area into town or do the same by following the path along the waterway called the Chestnut Walk. This was an enjoyable route into town as we could go into Reading Abbey ruins and the public gardens of the Forbury. I've written about this here and here.  Perhaps the recent visit, my birthday and the coming Father's Day on Sunday which is always close to our wedding anniversary has triggered this off? Anyway, this time I wanted to write about The Forbury Gardens as I remember them and some of the recent changes in the area that I've noticed.





Chestnut Walk by the River Kennet.
This area was once part of the grounds of Reading Abbey.  Here there would have been a landing stage for travellers by water, a wharf for the activities of the abbey and the abbey corn mill which was next to a water channel called the Holy Brook. Excavations have dated the first mill on the site to the 12th century.


The River Kennet flows on through Reading town.



A small garden next to the Abbey ruins has been created as an outdoor seating area for those who work in the surrounding offices. Once there were warehouses, then offices and by the time we moved away from Reading many buildings had been demolished to make way for smart modern office blocks. It's an area I know well as I worked in this part of town before I was married.
These days it's not possible to go into the Abbey ruins or along a path that we used to get into the Forbury Gardens and instead on my recent times I've had to do a detour through these streets and then walk through the old Abbey Inner Gatehouse.



The Blade is a 14 storey office block in Abbey Street


The Abbey Inner Gateway



The Forbury was an open public space. It was used for grazing animals, for fairs, a cattle market and other events. Reading Corporation bought the site of the former outer and inner courtyards of the Abbey in the 1850s, transforming it into a public garden with a botanical character.  Help with the original planting was given by Suttons Seed Co. which had offices and a famous demonstration garden on the opposite side of the Forbury (now Forbury Square) until the company's move in 1962 to new trial grounds on the main London-Bath road. Much of the original plan of the Forbury Gardens remains unchanged.




A tunnel, which can be seen in the wall (to the right in the photo above) was built in 1859 to link the gardens and the Abbey ruins. Some carved stones from the Abbey site were used in the construction of both the tunnel and the arched stone shelter nearby. This is the path from Chestnut Walk that we would have used when I was a child. It was fun playing in the Abbey ruins, looking at the large stone information plaques that told the story in carved pictorial scenes of a place where kings and queens had come for important events.  I would run through the tunnel and try and create an echo as I called out to my parents or a cousin before racing on to the fountain in the gardens to look at the goldfish swimming in the water. The grassy mound in the gardens, Forbury Hill, doesn't look so impressive today, but it seemed an exciting one to climb and run around the paths in those childhood days.


the stone shelter



The fountain was in the centre that opened on Easter Sunday 1856.  The scallop shell is the emblem of St. James. St. James' Church and former primary school, now a pre-school, can be seen in the background of the photos (below). We've been to many baptisms, confirmations and weddings in the church and then taken photos of friends and family in the gardens.

Sadly the fountain wasn't working and this year the water was clogged up with water weeds and rushes.
  
2013


I thought I would include this old photo of my late father and I by the fountain.

2015

Forbury Hill


the rose garden

Herbaceous Border


Memorial to King Henry I who is buried in Reading Abbey


photos taken in  late Summer 2013





The Maiwand Lion commemorates the men of the 2nd Battalion of the 66th Berkshire Regiment who were killed in Afghanistan in 1880.





The Cenotaph
We would come to the Remembrance Day service there every November. 


Along from the Abbey Inner Gateway is the Old Shire Hall which was the administration headquarters for the county council before it moved out of town and is now an hotel. The Suttons Seed Company's original demonstration garden was in this area. In Forbury Square there are now modern offices, restaurants and wine bars.




I hope you enjoyed the walk and some childhood memories with photos taken during different times when on visits to Reading. I'll write about the area around the Town Hall, Museum and St. Laurence's Church (seen in the above photo) another time.
Until then, have a good week!
Linda :)

23 comments:

  1. Interesting post and wonderful pictures with sweet memories of your childhood, nice reading.

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    1. Thank you Jenneke. I try and live in the present, but I'm beginning to want to record what I remember of the past before I forget!

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  2. Such a lovely place to visit. We're so lucky in this country to have so many wonderful gardens and public spaces open to us. I love the photo of you and your dad, treasured memories I'm sure.

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    1. We are fortunate to have these public gardens and parks. Even a small space for folk to sit in is appreciated and larger parks are good recreation spaces for families.

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  3. So nice to see my old school again. Yep I went St James and to the church next door. The bi t of the Kennet you showed was coming under the Kings road and along Chestnut walk which I can't work out if it's the original part but was used a s a wharf for Huntley & Palmer as well. I feel it's a shame that is all gone now. BTW if you had gone down the side of the blade you would have seen some of the old Abbey Mill. Can't remember seeing fish in the fountain last time I was there.

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    1. So much has changed in my life time in that area Bill. At least The Forbury Gardens still has the same lay-out! I've looked at the old maps, even the 1898 is interesting, as I'm fascinated by what they can tell you about a place. However, there's nothing like remembering and recording the changes in living memory and I know where the corn mill was located. My great grandfather moved into Reading from rural Hampshire and worked as a sawyer for Huntley and Palmer's. He probably worked in the saw mill by the wharf. I shall try and go back sometime and explore down by The Blade, but there are so many other parts of Berkshire I want to revisit also!

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    2. They are redeveloping Station Hill, I remember them doing that the first time round, hopefully this time it will look better

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    3. I went to look at the new station area as several people said that I should take a walk that way. I'm going to write about that another time. I must say I wasn't keen on the modern design of the building next to the old station facade. Everything looks new and sterile and could do with planters and trees on the traffic free forecourt. There's a lot to do with the site across the way which is still a building site.

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  4. a great mix of old and new, I like the old abby and all those old stone ruins but also like the new Blade buildiing. and i love the wrought iron fence with the scalloped top... what a beautiful walk, then and now...

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    1. Many of our historical buildings in our cities and towns that were not listed as of special importance have been demolished to make way for modern offices and apartments and if you were brought up with the old buildings you miss them when they're no longer there. Some modern architecture is attractive. I do like old wrought ironwork.

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  5. So many things to remember about your childhood - things I remember in mine too - trolley buses in the cities, not having a car (we did have a motor bike and side car) and catching buses everywhere, long family walks and calling out to make echoes under a bridge. Lovely contrast of old and new photos and lots of information too - I've never been to Reading so it was great to see it through your eyes and memory:)

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    1. Much of what I remember about my childhood must have been common to those who lived through those times and then the place where one grew up was more specific and influential. Reading was still a market town and the area outside the borough where I first lived was still rural and only beginning to change as post-war houses were built. On the whole it was a good time in my life.

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  6. It is lovely to appreciate this part of Reading through your eyes Linda. I know this area well, but never appreciated it so much until I saw your pictures. If I am there again I will look at it with new eyes. Thank you for that! I loved the picture of you and your Dad by the fountain and seeing it again now. That is so nice. Reading really is a very different place now from when I first knew it, so many changes and although it is different I think that it is moving in a good direction. Glad you enjoyed your walk! xx

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    1. Thank you, Amy. Your comments mean a lot to me as I'm sure you've realised that I have a fondness for Reading, past and present. I'm happy where I live now, but also thankful that I can visit Berkshire and Reading from time-to time.

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  7. All kind stunning. The Abbey inner gateway must have been truly awesome in its best days; it still is lovely today.
    I esp. liked the lion statue. My father's regiment in WWII had a lion for their symbol.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this walk. :>)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the walk, Beth. Only two of the abbey buildings survived the dissolution in tact and the abbey inner gateway was one. It housed a boarding school which Jane Austen attended. The lion memorial is very impressive and it's one of the familiar landmarks in the town.

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  8. Revisiting childhood memories is always sad and happy all at the same time. How lovely to walk along with you here.

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    1. Thank you Marilyn. I'm happy that you came along for the walk, dear blog friend.

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  9. Life certainly does go on ...and change, funnily enough I was thinking this myself recently while visiting Liverpool and looking at the new builds, it's all glass and concrete, I do miss architecture....good old solid builds that will outlive several generations!
    This is such a wonderful post, I really enjoyed hearing about your memories as a child, that pic of you and your dad is so sweet, priceless actually!
    The Abbey inner gateway...sighs..what a beautiful arc, how I wish I had that...and that lion you showed later, in my garden...
    I was laughing at the thought of you running through that tunnel and enjoying the echoes, every child enjoys echoes, I still do! Lol...
    And of course I have to admire that celtic cross...I did enjoy sharing your memories!xxx

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  10. So interesting to see this very modern world right up against the ruins. Fun to read about the changes in your lifetime.

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    1. If it were not for the abbey ruins office workers wouldn't necessarily know about the town's riverside history represented by former buildings that have been demolished to make way for office blocks. Actually the Blade is attractive in design and now forms part of the town's skyline. The gardens and walks along the Kennet are welcome areas to retreat to for a lunch break in good weather.

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    2. If it were not for the abbey ruins office workers wouldn't necessarily know about the town's riverside history represented by former buildings that have been demolished to make way for office blocks. Actually the Blade is attractive in design and now forms part of the town's skyline. The gardens and walks along the Kennet are welcome areas to retreat to for a lunch break in good weather.

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  11. Well it's s a bit late replying to this but it brought back a lot of memories, I used to go to school at St James and mass a the church. Remember visiting the gardens often and walking round the ruins pity they had to close but hopefully they will soon open. Hope you recuperate well and get over your ailement.🙂

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