Points of Interest - Arthur Newbery Park

There is a diversity of trees in Arthur Newbery park although they are not great in number. At the top and bottom of the hill are handsome avenues. Along the east side of the park is the remains of a wooded area. A small path runs through the trees and follows the park boundary down to the lower end of the park. The 1883 map of Tylehurst just faintly shows that the path runs round the edge of an old chalk pit, which is approximately where the bus stop now is on Kentwood Hill. (The Ordnance Survey map of 1879 in Reading Central Library shows the chalk pit much more clearly).

Another small, pretty, wooded area runs down to Kentwood Hill. Bluebells and anemones can be found here.

The centre of the park is noted for the magnificent hawthorns. A small rugged area of gorse and broom sits near the playground in the centre of the park. This was probably built in the remains of a small quarry. In several places throughout the walk, both here and in McIlroy Park, the gorse and broom grows on the edge of small hollows. The hollows are probably the remains of small clay pits. It would seem that the disturbance encourages the spread of these plants in particular.

In a hollow in the centre of the park is a childrenís playground. Until a few years ago there was a paddling pool. This has now been filled and serves as a sand pit. Older maps show that there were at least two quarries in the park area so it is quite likely that the paddling pool was originally formed from one of the quarries - the clay acting as a lining.

The park excels at providing wonderful open views that stretch over to the rolling Mapledurham hills on the other side of the river Thames. A number of seats are judiciously placed. In recent years the open part of the park is left unmown which means that in the summer months there are masses of wild flowers including an abundance of buttercups and cow parsley. This is one of the gorgeous spots on this walk. It is difficult to believe that the park is within an urban environment.

One of the most striking geographical features of this area is the abundance of water. There are many streams, sadly most are now piped underground. The vestige of a stream in the park separates the main park from a rather square and formal little area.

This stream probably fed the two ponds that were there until the turn of the century. One was used as a sheep dip by Lower Armour Road and other was just a pond in the park. One of the ponds was known as the Tupenny Piddle. The site of the ponds can be seen by the profusion of celandines in the spring.The ponds were filled and replaced by the water trough.

What with local ponds being filled and streams piped underground it is sometimes difficult to recall that the area is rich in water. The older maps show a proliferation of wells and streams in this area. It is surprising since Tilehurst sits on top of a hill so are almost certainly fed by artesian wells. The 1879 Ordnance Survey (a copy in held in Reading Central Library) map shows the location of the wells in the area; the drawing marks these wells.

The water trough was donated by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association. Other such troughs can be found on Scours Lane (Be Kind to All Godís Creatures) and between the Bear Inn [see note 1] and the Water Tower. In view of the purpose of the troughs and the obvious intention to curb drinking it is not surprising that the location of the troughs, at least in this area, is in the vicinity of pubs, thus providing a healthy alternative.

Opposite this exit is a delightful thatched cottage. There are only a few of these cottages left now. These local cottages have a distinctive style. Until the 1970s there was one in Armour Road. There is still one at the top of New Lane Hill. This particular cottage seem to have be built in early 1700,

Newbery Lodge is on the site of the library that Arthur Newbery founded. It was run as a library until 1960. For a short time after the library closed the lodge was used as a nursery for mentally disabled children. The lodge now houses a playgroup.

As you walk from Arthur Newbery Park up Lower Armour Road you will pass two facing public houses, the Butcherís Arms and the Bird in Hand [see note 2]. Next to the Butcherís Arms is a block of flats. There was a large house where the flats are now in Lower Armour Road. It was called Armour Lodge. This may have been the manor house for the area. The 1883 map show this area as Harmour - not Armour.

There are two pubs here in the centre of the Armour village. One is the Butchers Arms, the other is the Bird in Hand. A village pub has been in existance for many years. Older maps show the Bird in Hand but obviously the present pub does not date back hundreds of years. In fact the pub featured on the maps is the white house next door which has now been divided into two houses. Again the original Bird in Hand is marked quite clearly on the 1883 map.

Quite a few of the houses in and around Lower Armour Road go back to the early 1700s.

As you walk down Armour Road you can step inside the Recreation Ground. Again this part gives wonderful views across to Mapledurham

Looking over to the left is a large area of the remaining Kentwood Common. The land is owned by the Tilehurst Poorís Charity Trust. The top squarish area is much loved by local sportsmen. Saturday and Sunday football matches in the winter, and more rarely cricket in the summer. Many local fetes and shows are held on this ground.

The Victorians had the foresight to plant the magnificent trees that bound the edge of the recreation ground.

The lower, larger part of the area is land used for allotments. The allotments are also held in trust by the Tilehurst Poorís Charity. This part of Tilehurst Common includes the Withies, a grove of willow trees.

The allotments were originally provided for the poor people of Tilehurst. If the land were not entirely let provision was made to plant trees for fuel and material. The Withies are the willow copse that was planted for this purpose.

This area also forms an open square with the houses on Kentwood Hill, Armour Road and Polsted Road/Lower Armour Road forming three sides of the square. This is reminiscent of a very typical development in Oxfordshire (in particular) and Berkshire. There are many examples of villages that form round the local common, leaving the wide open space in the middle. No doubt the livestock grazed in this central area of the village and were protected by all the villagers. Other villages more well known villages of this type are Silchester, Marsh Baldon, and Stadhampton but there are many others. If you look across the Recreation ground from Kentwood Hill, you can easily imagine a wide village square with the common in the centre.

1. The Bear Inn is now called the Water Tower. Back

2. The Bird in Hand has now closed as a pub. The pub and grounds have been built on as housing. The original Bird in Hand pub was in the white house next door: see point 11 for more information. Happily the Butchers Arms is still open for business. Back