Caversham Park is the site of the castle which later became the ‘seat’ of William Cadogan, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. His titles included Viscount Caversham and Baron Cadogan of Reading. Some of the earliest evidence of human life in the country has been found, in the form of stone axes, in graves at Caversham.
Text about the history of the Co-op.
The text reads: The section of old cobbles in the pavement outside this pub once formed part of the entrance to The Yard, and what remained of an old weaving shed. The shed was a reminder of the once important cloth trade in this area. It was demolished to make way for the Co-op store, which occupied this building for several years.
The Co-op began in Rochdale, in 1844, when 28 local working men launched a co-operative in the town that developed into today’s vast shopping empire. At the first Co-op shop craftsmen could deposit their goods to pay for what they bought, each item valued according to the number of hours it had taken to produce. In return they received labour notes which could be exchanged for provisions and other men’s produce.
The ‘Rochdale Pioneers’ were inspired by the beliefs of Robert Owen. His model community – set up in the early 1800s at New Lanark in Scotland – provided improved housing and working conditions; a school (which included the world’s first day-nursery, playground and evening classes), and a village store that proved to be the cradle of the co-operative movement.
Prints and text about the English Civil War.
The text reads: The English Civil War, which lasted from 1642 to 1651, was the greatest single period of strife ever to occur on English soil. During this period of bloody conflict (between the Royalist forces of Charles I and Parliament) a higher proportion of adult men fought and died than in the 1st World War.
Throughout the Civil War, Reading was occupied by one side or the other. In April 1643 it was the first English town to be besieged, during which it was held by some 3,000 Royalist soldiers. They were totally outnumbered by 16,000 Parliamentary infantry and 3,000 cavalry, who gathered at Caversham Heights.
Eventually, with the Royalists on the verge of surrender, Prince Rupert arrived at Caversham Heights with reinforcements. The King was also present. A bloody battle soon followed.
The Royalists were cut down as they crossed Balmore Field (now Balmore Walk). It has been estimated that some 500 soldiers died, remembered in local folklore as the day ‘Balmayers Field ran blood’. Fierce fighting also took place at Emmer Green, near the Royalist stronghold.
After their surrender the King’s forces were allowed to march out of the town to the Royalist headquarters at Oxford. However, Reading was still to change hands several times before the war finally ended.
Text about Alexander Pope.
The text reads: Mapledurham House, on the outskirts of Caversham, stands in extensive grounds running down to the banks of the Thames.
The eminent 18th century poet and satirist Alexander Pope knew the house very well. Between 1707 and 1715 he made frequent visits to see his friends, the sisters Teresa and Martha Blount.
On his death in 1744 Pope left Martha, his lifelong friend, a considerable sum of money and many of his possessions, including 60 books of her choice.
A portrait of Alexander Pope, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, hangs in the ‘Boudoir’ (once known as the Balcony Room) at Mapledurham House. There are also portraits of Theresa and Martha in the house, which has belonged to the Blount family and its descendants since it was built in the 16th century.
Pope also seems to have inspired the landscaping of the grounds. The gardens were laid out and the great Cedar of Lebanon planted around 1740, in the style advocated by Pope and the landscape architect, William Kent.
Text about the writer John Galsworthy.
The text reads: John Galsworthy made his literary breakthrough in 1906 with his first play The Silver Box. In the same year he published The Man of Property, followed by In Chancery (1920) and To Let (1921). Together they formed his celebrated series, The Forsyte Saga.
The Saga traces the fortunes of three generations of the Forsyte family, beginning in the prosperous upper middle class settling of Victorian London during the 1880s, and ending in the early 1920s.
Galsworthy came to live in this area, and bought a house in The Warren, then part of the parish of Mapledurham and since incorporated into the Borough of Reading.
It was here that he continued writing the follow up to the first instalment of The Forsyte Saga published in 1906. A second Forsyte chronicle followed, as well as a family history of the Charwells (relatives of the Forsyte).
In 1932 Galsworthy was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, and his writing has remained popular ever since.
Text about The Wind in the Willows.
The text reads: Born in Edinburgh in 1859, Kenneth Grahame came to live with his grandmother in Berkshire as a child after the death of his mother. In later life the stories he told to his own young son formed the basis for this children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows.
Published in 1908, Grahame’s book soon became very popular, helped by the endearing illustrations of EH Shepard and then Arthur Rackham. The story is set along the banks of the Thames, which is more or less the stretch of the river from Mapledurham (on the outskirts of Caversham) upstream to Pangbourne.
The book describes the adventures of Rat, Mole, Badger, Toad and others who more than anything love messing about in boats: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”.
When Toad (a conceited fellow) takes to motor cars and modern gadgetry a threat is posed to the group’s way of life on the river bank. Several adventures later, the book ends with Toad back in residence at Toad Hall and promising to change his ways.
A photograph of Prospect Street, Caversham, c1906.
A painting by local artist John Hedgecock.
External photograph of the building – main entrance.
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