CONSERVATION work started this week on the ‘house’ footprint at Caversham Court Gardens.
Reading Council contractors, local stone masons A F Jones, started work on 20th May to replace and repair the stone masonry that makes up the house footprint at the popular park in north Reading. The work should take around six weeks to complete and has been designed to cause as little disruption to people’s enjoyment of the gardens as possible.
The footprint marks the site of a splendid Victorian Gothic mansion, remodelled extensively by the Simonds, Reading’s banking and brewing family, during the 19th Century. The house was demolished in 1931 shortly before Caversham Court was opened up as a public park in 1934. In 2004, with Heritage Lottery funding, the Council was able to restore the site, particularly the gazebo, and marking out the footprints of the houses and the buildings remaining on the site.
The limestone that depicts the Victorian section of the layout of the house that once stood on the site has been damaged by winter frosts. The new stonework will be in a stronger Bulgarian limestone called ‘Vratza’ which is more able to withstand weather erosion.
The design of the house footprint will remain the same and where possible, a composite concrete resin material using some of the old stone for a colour match will be used to replace the damaged stone sections, protected by steel edging, and railway sleepers will indicate the position of doorways. The access ramp will also be extended and surfaces made non-slip, to make the site more accessible and easier to negotiate.
The work area will be fenced off for safety and the replacement will be carried out in two phases: the first will last from 20th May to 20th June; following a four week break the second phase will begin after the St Peter’s Church annual fete in mid-July. All work is expected to be completed by the end of August, except re-turfing, which will be carried out in the autumn.
The footpath from St Peter’s Church, which runs near the footprint, will still be accessible to the public.
The footpaths throughout the gardens will also be refurbished in sections over the summer.
Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said:
“I’m delighted we are able to invest on restoring this heritage element in the much loved Caversham Court Gardens. The house, which sadly no longer stands, had an incredibly illustrious past and played an important role in Reading’s history. It is entirely fitting that we should invest to preserve the memory of the house in the form of its’ footprint so its story can be passed on for future generations to understand and enjoy.”
The work has been funded through developer contributions.
Caversham Court Garden is of national importance and listed in the English Heritage ‘Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England’.
The house that once stood within this site has a long an illustrious past. During 12th century a modest house was built on the site to house the local church’s priest. This was replaced by a Tudor house in the 16th Century home to a notorious money lender. The Alexander family were occupants during the civil war period and in the late 17th Century and 18th Century the Loveday family lived in the house during the Battle of Reading. The Simonds family, Reading’s banking and brewing family, remodelled the house, turning it into a splendid Gothic mansion in the 19th Century. The site was bought by the Reading Corporation in the 1930s and the last house was demolished before Caversham Court Gardens opened to the public in 1934.
Find out more about the history of the house and Caversham Court Gardens here: http://home.fccg.org.uk/history
AF Jones Stonemasons www.afjones.co.uk