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'The House Painter'

Brick Ornamentation in Reading
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Stephen B. Cox
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Glossary 2
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Reading Bricks
Regency Period
Edwardian Period
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Alfred Waterhouse
In Thomas Hardy's map of Wessex for his books Reading was called "Auld Brickham": a significant name as we shall see.

Certain towns and cities across Britian have a distinctive flavour with regards to their building materials and architectural style. Bath for example is famous for its "Bath stone". But Reading I have termed "the brick city of Britain".  Here bricks and and brick ornamentation left its creative mark on the landscape and flourished perhaps as nowhere in Britain. Wherever you go you will find bricks of many colours and also elaborate ornamental  decoration in bricks. This is especially with regards to the shops of  places like Broad Street in the town centre (only the upper floors of these magnificent frontages remain though).
The emergence of Reading as a university in its own right  early in the twentieth century also saw a further expansion of the wealth of brick architecture. Particularly fine examples are: Wantage Hall; Foxhill House; The Library (at the old London road site); St.Andrews Hall (originally a house of the Palmer family and now the National Museum of English Rural life).
Another fine example is what is now the Comfort Inn on Christchurch Road.
Brickmaking was re-started in the 15th and 16th centuries. Typical Elizabethan bricks were smaller than modern ones, and expensive items, so were only used for important buildings, such as Hampton Court. Simpler houses were timber framed, with wattle and daub infill, or if - say - a wealthy farmer, with some brick infill. These bricks would usually be made on an individual basis, for a specific building, and this practice continued until the 19th century - the remains of a kiln exist, for example, at Tadley made for the building of just 2 or 3 cottages.
The bricks used for The Oracle were made in Tilehurst in 1627 and by the Georgian  period brickworks and tileworks were well established in both Tilehurst and Katesgrove.

By the late 19C most of the kilns in Katesgrove were worked out, except for Waterloo Kilns and Rose Kilns. At Coley, two firms were making bricks but in 1885 one of these moved to Tilehurst. Samuel Wheeler founded Tilehurst Potteries at Kentwood Hill in 1885, and made roofing tiles and flower pots. S and E Collier, moved from Coley to Grovelends in lower Tilehurst. Here they continued until 1965.

Reading bricks have a distinctive red colour, although by different firing a yellow variety can be obtained, whilst by adding chalk, a white brick results. Many houses in the Reading area made use of these to create decorative patterns in their brickwork. This is especially so around the University area of Reading.(click here for page on: Alfred Waterhouse great Victorian architect)

The clays used would also make red or yellow bricks, and blue-grey brick. The works in the Bracknell and Wokingham area exported most of their production (particularly the yellow) to London - some yards having railway connections for the purpose.

Until the second half of the twentieth century, virtually every building in Reading was made of brick. Recently there has been a high quality revival of brickwork in specialist designed detached houses around Reading, creating a modern revival in a modern idiom for the Reading brick ambience. Commercial and governmental buildings too semed to have rediscovered the heritage of the Reading brick.

my personal website is now open

The personal website of Stephen B. Cox  is a now open. There you will find out what I am doing now  incl. my researches & writing on History, Folklore, Memoirs;    Photography;    Garden &Wildlife;  etc
There is also a page devoted to Redlands & Whiteknights History

Let us help you to support the heritage of Reading 

to arrange a free consultation please contact us on:

The House Painters