Newport Road street party 2021

Saturday 4 September 2021 – after a year off because of the pandemic our street party was back at last! The weather was pleasant, and we had another fun afternoon. We had live entertainment from local ceilidh band Left Foot Forwards, and a few of us had a go at Scottish dancing too. This year’s quiz was hosted by Richard and again featured some local knowledge, with a prize provided by Richfields. We had local DJ Burt for the first time spinning some great party sounds, and the Coffee Cube van arrived just in time for us to enjoy a hot drink after lunch. Many thanks to Andy and the Mod team for more fantastic free food, everyone who helped and the residents of Newport Road for their support. And thanks to everyone at New Hope for organising the children’s activities.

Watch our heritage walk on video

The annual Heritage Open Days event in September is back. We’ve been organising guided walks around the streets of the area exploring our history and architecture since 2019, and this year’s walks were on 17 and 18 September.

If you’ve missed our walks the good news is that we’ve also made our walk virtual. You can watch our 20 minute documentary that follows the walk and explores some fascinating local history, scenes from the past and the area’s wealth of Victorian architectural features. We hope you enjoy it!

We hope this inspires you to dig out your old photos and tell us your stories of life in the area in the past – we’d love to see more pictures of scenes from the past and maybe even make another documentary next year. Please contact us at info@bell-tower.org.uk if you can help.

Our Heritage Open Days walks are back

Our area has lots of fascinating history, and this year we are organising heritage walks around our area in September as part of Heritage Open Days. The walks will take place on 17 and 18 September and will last about an hour.

Entitled ‘Caversham Road: An area shaped by Victorian aesthetics and innovation’, the walk will take in much of the area’s Victorian industry, showing signs of what remains and pictures of local scenes from the era. We’ll also be looking at some of the original Victorian architectural features that survive to this day.

Further details and booking at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/caversham-road-an-area-shaped-by-victorian-aesthetics-and-innovation-tickets-161616448147. Please note that places will be limited to 10 per walk so prior booking will be required.

These walks get booked up quickly. We are still keen to offer another opportunity to local people that were unable to get on to one of the Heritage Open Days walks – if you are interested please email info@bell-tower.org.uk.

We’ve also made the walk into a 20 minute documentary – you can watch this here:

Do you have a long memory? We’d love to hear from you!

After the popular local history documentary we made last year for Heritage Open Days we are starting to make another one. This time we are hoping to make a history of the area as told by you! We are looking for residents that have lived in the area for a long time and would like to participate in a short interview, to record their memories for posterity.

Do you remember what the streets were like many years ago? Perhaps you have memories of attending EP Collier School or St Paul’s church, or going to some of the shops that are no longer there. Or did you or someone you know work for a local business such as Drews or Cox & Wyman? And if you have any old photos that you can share with us we would be particularly pleased to see them!

We hope to interview residents on camera in their gardens (with appropriate social distancing as necessary) during the summer months when the weather is warm enough to sit outside in comfort. If you prefer not to be filmed we could make an audio recording instead.

Can you help us? If you are interested please contact David at david@bell-tower.org.uk or on 07890 118167.

Our first local history documentary is still available to watch at www.bell-tower.org.uk/caversham-road-documentary.

Drews appeal dismissed

Good news for our area’s heritage, with the announcement that the planning appeal for the Drews site has been dismissed.

The government planning inspector’s report was published today (14 May), stating that “[the] benefits do not outweigh the significant harm the proposal would have on the character and appearance of the area and the significance of a non-designated heritage asset”. At the appeal meeting on 24 March, Mary Neale on behalf of Bell Tower pointed out that the proposed development would be out of keeping with the existing buildings on the western side of Caversham Road and stressed the former malthouse’s long and varied history and contibution to the area’s character. Bell Tower’s representation was also strongly supported by our local councillors at the meeting.

Developer S2 Caversham was proposing to demolish the main building and build a seven-storey block of flats. The council’s planning committee initially refused the application in October 2020 after receiving a petition with more than 1200 signatures in favour of keeping the former malthouse, which the Bell Tower Community Association had succeeded in getting locally listed earlier in the year.

The developer will now almost certainly have to look at how the building might be adapted and produce a new design that is more harmonious with the former malthouse and the character of the local area.

Drews application goes to appeal

The owner of the Drews building, S2 Caversham, has decided to appeal Reading Borough Council’s decision to reject its application to demolish the Drews building and replace it with a seven-storey block of flats.

Bell Tower has made a submission to and asked to take part in the appeal hearing with a planning inspector. We have argued that the building is a rare surviving malthouse both in the town and nationally and that the developer has shown no evidence it looked into the viability of retaining it. A national expert on maltings, Amber Patrick, says the complex marks the transition of the malting process in the 19th century from a traditional to a pneumatic one. This, we have said, re-enforces the heritage argument. Our statement also outlines how the proposed tower block would clash with the Victorian and Edwardian character of the area, particularly in terms of height, whereas the existing structure is in harmony with the way buildings in the area were used for residential, commercial and industrial purposes.

The council, the Conservation Area Advisory Committee and Caversham and District Residents Association, have all written to the planning inspector in favour of retaining the building. The appeal will be heard at an online meeting on Wednesday 24 March.

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