Jim Bell continues his journey to provide us with an overview of Wokingham during the 19th and 20th centuries. This time he visits the archives to extract Wokingham’s news from old Reading Mercury newspapers. They go as far back as 1859:
1859 – Sat 1st Jan
Messrs Weight and Barford of Wokingham are appointed surgeons to Wellington College. Mr. Barford who was formerly demonstrator of Chemistry at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital is also appointed to deliver an annual course of chemistry lectures to the college students.
1859 Sat 29th Jan
Wellington College was opened for students on the 20th January.
1859 Sat 5th Feb
Wellington College was opened by Queen Victoria. (P8)
1859 Sat 4th June
A presentation of inkstand to W C Beechey at the Rose Hotel on the occasion of the dissolution of the Society of Oddfellows to which Mr Beechey had been Honorary Secretary for 15 years. The Chair was occupied by Edward Weight.
1860 Sat 31st March
The preliminary steps for the formation of Wokingham Rifle Corps were taken –30 volunteers entered their names. The corps is part of Forest Division Rifles.
1860 Sat 23rd June
New Town Hall On Monday last the Savings Bank weekly meeting was held for the first time in the room in the new Town Hall, the use of which for bank purposes in the trustees perpetuity. The room, which is in the corner of the new building facing the Rose Hotel, is large and in every way suited for the bank purposes and there the bank will be opened every Monday as usual from 12.00 till one o’clock.
1860 Sat 30th June
NEW TOWN HALL
The looking glass presented by theRecorder Mr. Carrington, on the opening of the new Town Hall was a plate 21” by 91”. It was supplied by Mr. Edward Foulkes, Russell Street, Covent Garden.
1860 Sat 4th August
Death of F A Carrington Recorder
The work of demolition of this building was commenced on Tuesday last, and we hope the weather will prove more favourable for the erection of the new building than we have lately experienced. Mr. Wells of Reading has undertaken the contract. The Town –hall has been kindly given up for the purpose of holding their Sabbath morning and evening services; but although a spacious building it does not appear sufficient to accommodate the number of attendants.
EXCURSION TRAIN TO HASTINGS
The Special Excursion Train to Hastings on Tuesday last, was well patronised by our townsfolk, in connection with the members of the Reading Philanthropic Institution. The weather was fortunately fine, and those who made up their minds for a holiday thoroughly enjoyed it.
1860 Sat 18th August
Biography of F A Carrington
Literary Institute occupies new Town Hall
1860 Sat 1st September
THE WEEKLY HALF HOLIDAY MOVEMENT
The public meeting to which we alluded last week, was held on Monday last in the Town Hall, but was not very largely attended, still we noticed present the Alderman (J.L. Roberts Esq.) Captain Gower. The Rev. W. Hirst, Messrs W.W. Wheeler, F. Soames, J. Soames, J. Heelas, jun., J. Weeks, H. Ifould, W.W. Burr, W. Hollis, R. Briginshaw, and others.
The Alderman on taking the chair, explained the object of the meeting called in pursuance of the requisition to him; after which, Captain Gower, Mr. Weeks. Mr. F. Soames and Mr. W. Wheeler addressed the meeting, and the following resolutions were carried:- 1st.That it is desirable to set apart some time from business during each week, in order to afford to the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood, the means of recreation necessary for mental and physical improvement. 2nd. That a committee be formed for the purpose of waiting on those whose influence it is important to secure, as to the practicability of carrying out the foregoing resolution, and also what time in the week would be most convenient, and that the meeting be adjourned until Wednesday, the 12th of September to receive the report of the Committee.
It seemed the general opinion that although it might not be practicable to entirely suspend business at any particular period, still if it all would but earnestly second the movement, the opportunity could be easily afforded to everyone of availing themselves of a few hours of weekly recreation.
1861 Sat 5th Jan
J G Barford marries
1861 Sat 6th July
Baptist Chapel was opened on Thursday 4th July.
1862 Sat 6th Sept.
The foundation stone of St. Paul’s Parish Church was laid on Tuesday by Mrs. John Walter.
1862 Sat 13th September
A BALLOON DESCENT
On Thursday afternoon between five and six o’clock our town was thrown into a state of excitement by the news of the near approach of Mr. Green’s Balloon, which had ascended from Reading that afternoon. In a short time almost everyone turned out to watch with interest the huge aerial visitor and it soon became apparent that the travellers intended to affect a landing near.
They first reached terra firma in a clover field on the farm of Mr. Edward Allen, near the church, and were soon surrounded by a very numerous assemblage, when finding that it might occasion a good deal of damage to the crop the balloon was towed to a large meadow where plenty of assistance being rendered by the bystanders, Mr. Green and his fellow traveller alighted in safety and in a very short time the gas was allowed to escape and the unwieldy balloon, to the astonishment of those who had never before had an opportunity of seeing such a thing, was soon safely picked up with the car, and taken off in a cart without sustaining the least damage.
1862 Sat 6th Dec
James Twycross died on Wednesday
1864 Sat 16th April
Opening of All Saints Parish Church on Friday 15th April after renovations.
1864 Sat 6th August
WATERING OF WOKINGHAM STREETS
During the past week, through the energy of a few of our tradesmen, a capital improvement has been introduced in our town: we mean the partial watering of our streets. At present the water-cart only visits the Market-place, and a short distance down the adjoining streets, but when the inhabitants experience the benefit derived, we shall hope to see the improvement extended.
One or two previous attempts in former years have failed, the more credit is due to those who have successfully started the project new, and when it is seen that where all combine how small an individual weekly subscription is required to continue this present plan, it surely will not be discontinued, especially during the present dry and dusty summer.
Some complain that the supply of water is rather scanty, but they must bear in mind that the supply is in exact proportion to the subscription, and an increase in the latter item will at once secure an increase in the former.
1864 Sat 22nd Oct
THE WOKINGHAM FIRE ENGINE
The larger engine which is kept at the Town Hall has lately undergone extensive alterations and repairs, and for this purpose Mr. Merryweather of the firm of Merryweather and Sons, (of Long Acre and Lambeth) attended to suggest what repairs and alterations were necessary. Mr. Alderman Ferguson ordered that these should be at once carried out, and consequently the engine was sent to Messrs. Merryweather’s fire-engine works in London.
The engine has been mounted on springs which makes it travel much easier along the roads. The works have been thoroughly overhauled and repaired, and the firm have turned it out equal in power to those of their latest design. The engine is painted a bright red colour, and on each side in gold letters is written the word “Wokingham”. Several new lengths of hose, fire buckets, &c., have also been provided , and in addition to those, a domestic fire pump, a small inexpensive article, which can be instantly set to work by a single person, and is invaluable in extinguishing fires when they have not obtained much hold on the place.
When the other engine is repaired, the townspeople may flatter themselves they have sufficient power to soon extinguish any fire that may occur.
1864 Sat 26th Nov
J L Roberts was chairman of the Literary Institution
1865 Sat 8th July
John Balston Walter, son of John Walter III, has been Gazetted to a Lieutenancy in the Royal Berks Militia vice Baynham removed.
1865 Sat 11th November
On Wednesday night a ball was held in the Town Hall under distinguished patronage and was numerously attended by the principal families resident at this end of the county together with numerous officers from Aldershot. The party numbered rather more than one hundred and the hall was very tastefully decorated by Mr. W Chambers to whom was entrusted the refreshment department which, as usual on those occasions gave the greatest satisfaction. Burnham’s quadrille band performed a choice selection of music and the party did not separate until 4.00 on the following morning.
1865 Sat 9th Dec
On Tuesday the Royal Forest Lodge of Oddfellows celebrated their first anniversary with a soiree in the Town Hall. The Chair was taken by Alderman Heelas.
Sat. 30th Dec 1865
The coming of age of the Earl of Hillsborough.
On Tuesday night the hills on the farms held by the tenants of Castlereagh Estate were illuminated with tar barrels, bonfires etc. The Craighah Hill was rendered conspicuous by a grand display of fireworks consisting of several flights of rockets with various smaller pieces. For miles around the illuminations were visible several farm houses being brilliantly lighted.
1866 Sat 13th January
The festivities at Hillsborough Castle in celebration of the coming of age of the Earl of Hillsborough continues—
On Tuesday evening the tenants of the Kilmarlin Estate to the number of 600 partook of the hospitality of the Marquis of Downshire and amongst the enjoyments provided for them witnessed a private theatrical performance in an elegant little theatre expressly fitted up in the mansion. Other amusements are in contemplation.
Sat. 24th Feb 1866
On Thursday last the Churchwardens and Overseers of Wokingham distributed nearly forty tons of coal amongst the poor parishioners from the funds realised from the fuel allotments – a most acceptable gift just now when the weather is colder, and from the long continued wet weather the poor have not been so fully employed as usual.
1866 Sat 23rd June
In the early part of the past week a requisition was set on foot by a number of the inhabitants who were desirous that a general holiday should be kept on the Coronation Day, which very quickly received the appeal of all the principal tradesmen of the town, and on Thursday it was presented to the Alderman, Mr James Skerritt, who promptly issued a hand bill, in which he recommended his fellow townsmen to carry out the proposal on Thursday next by closing their shops and suspending business as far as practicable.
We shall hope to see so reasonable request very generally complied with and thus enable the employer and employed to enjoy the rare treat of a day of recreation in this beautiful summer season, a boon, the value of which can only be realised by those whose duties tie them daily to the counter or desk.
1866 Sat 7th July
The stoppage of the Town Clock during the past few weeks has been a source of inconvenience to many and it has also been complained very generally that lately the clock has not kept much correct time as formerly, a fact in no way surprising when we state that the clock when first placed in the Town Hall was an old one.
The alderman has since called to his aid a church and turret clock manufacturer of London who recommends the erection of a new clock having four faces which would cost but little more than the recent repairs to the present one.
The proposal to adopt the latter plan must strike everyone as being the best. The alderman has accordingly called a meeting of the inhabitants of the afternoon next when the specifications and estimations and measures taken we trust to raise the necessary funds to carry out the plan determined on.
1866 Sat 24th Nov TOWN CLOCK
The completion of this much – improvement during the past week has afforded great satisfaction to the townspeople. The clock strikes the quarters, the hour faces have been painted black with gilt numerals and hands which enables the time to be observed at a much greater distance than formerly. The clock has been manufactured by Mr. E. Tucker, of Theobold Road, Grays Inn. The cost, including the new bells, has been upwards of £100 raised by voluntary subscriptions.
1867 Sat 2nd Feb
A new clock and bells have recently been erected in the Town Hall the changes attendant upon the same having been defrayed by public subscription collected under the superintendence of Mr. Alderman Skerritt. The clock shows the time upon four dials and strikes the quarters and hours upon bells weighing about 4 hundredweights cast by Messrs. Steinbank & Mears of Whitechapel. The clock itself has been constructed by Mr. Tucker of Theobold Road, London on the horizontal bed principle and embraces all modern improvements.
1867 Sat 27th July
Court “Leo” in connection with the London United District, was opened on the 17th inst., by Brother Cotton, the District Chief Ranger, at the “Hope and Anchor” Inn, Wokingham, assisted by the Brothers Hancock, Herbert, House, Moultry, Aldridge &c. The favourable state of the weather enabled the Brothers and members of the new Court to march in procession through the streets, headed by the town band playing popular airs and halting at the residences of several gentlemen who promote the welfare of the Order. On their return everything was admirably arranged and the new Court was formally opened by the District Chief Ranger and Brothers when twenty-five members were made and ten propositions received after which Brother Cotton delivered an interesting address to the new members upon the principles of Forestry, its rise and progress, and its present position as compared with other societies,-its amalgamated number of Courts and members and its sound financial position. At the conclusion the room was thrown open and a large party assembled and spent a pleasant evening.
House Moultry, Aldridge, &c. The favourable state of the weather enabled the Brothers and members of the new House
1867 Sat 3rd Aug
A marriage has been arranged between Lady Alice Hill and Lord Kenlie, son of the Earl of Earl Rective (Bective?).
1867 Sat 19th Oct
On Wednesday the Corporation met at the Town Hall to distribute the charity of the late Mrs Sarah Yarnold who left £20 yearly to four blind persons-two men and two women-those residing in Hurst and Ruscombe to be preferred. There were numerous applications and the following were elected: William Alder of Hurst, Charles Waite of Reading, Lucy New of Woodley and Ann Mellet of Swyncombe, each receiving five pounds.
1867 Sat 26th Oct
For some time past the good people of Wokingham (like the numerous letter writers to the London journals) have been vainly trying to ascertain the reason of the wide difference between the wholesale and retail price of meat. However, last Saturday evening the Town Crier announced that an enterprising West End butcher would sell any joints of beef for 6d per pound and a thriving trade he drove ere he closed his shutters he had sold out. He appears as well satisfied with the results that he announced his intention of repeating the experiment.
1867 Sat 9th Nov
On Wednesday evening our Town Hall presented a most animated scene on the occasion of this ball being held. The room had been very tastefully decorated and at ten o’clock dancing commenced to the music of Burnham’s Band, and the party which numbered 120 was composed of the principle county families in this neighbourhood, and included a numerous sprinkling of officers from Aldershot. Everything passed off most satisfactorily. The refreshment department as usual in the hands of Mr. W. Chambers of the Market Place receiving the unqualified approval of the company.
THE LITERARY INSTITUTION
The “season” of this institution will be inaugurated on Thursday evening by an address from John Walter, Esq., who will also give particulars of his recent tour through the United States. The particulars are advertised elsewhere.
This Annual November Pleasure Fair was held on Saturday and Monday last when there was the usual motley assemblage of shows, stalls and itinerant exhibitions, and as the weather was fine each day there was a large attendance , especially in the evening. Some of the inhabitants feared that as the fair extended over Sunday the usual quiet of the town on that day would be disturbed, but it was not so as a more orderly fair we do not recollect.
On Sunday afternoon the Rev. J. W. Charlton, the Incumbant of St. Sebastian’s, held a special service in the Market Place, and delivered a most suitable address to an audience most exclusively of the fair people, who listened to the rev. gentleman with marked attention.
There was no case calling for the attention of the magistrates arising from the fair. The police keeping a close watch on the few suspicious characters observed.
1868 Sat 1st February
On Saturday evening the town alarmed by the cry of “Fire”. It appears that a shed in the yard of the Red Lion Inn, in the middle of the Market Place, is used by the landlord, Mr Mattingly as a carpenter shop, and the upper part as a skittle alley. About half past nine flames were discovered in this shed. Plenty of assistance being at hand the doors were kept closed and water poured in from the roof by which judicious means the flames were subdued before much damage was done although a quantity of tools were destroyed. The fire no doubt was the result of an accident.
1868 Sat 28th March
VISIT OF THE PRINCE OF WALES
On Friday, the 20th inst. The meet of the Queen’s staghounds was fixed for Wokingham and in the morning it was rumoured tat we were to be honoured by the presence of the Prince of Wales, and this rumour was soon confirmed by the arrival of the Prince’s horses. The hounds arrived in the Market Place shortly before the appointed time and were met by an immense field of horsemen estimated at upwards of three hundred besides many ladies and carriages.
Exactly at twelve o’clock the Princes, accompanied by his Equerry, Captain Ellis, arrived in a carriage and pair, and having alighted at the “Rose” Hotel, he mounted his favourite chestnut hunter and proceeded through the streets amidst the hearty but respectful greetings of the assemblage to a meadow below All Saints’ Church, where the deer, the celebrated “Doctor,” specially reserved for this occasion was uncarted.
The Prince looked remarkably well and repeatedly acknowledged the cheers of the assemblage. The “Doctor,” directly he was at liberty, bounded off in the direction of Bracknell, but being headed he turned into the grounds at Buckhurst and from thence went on through Billingbear to Shottesbrook park at a great pace; at the last named place he got into a pond and a check ensued which was most welcome to such of the field as were still in the hunt.
The “Doctor” was safely taken near Taplow, after a good run. Three gentlemen only were up at the finish. The casualties were numerous, and the Prince had several falls,- one soon after starting, his horse, owing to the giving-way of a rotten bank, falling with him. He was, however, immediately up and mounted again, with no worse result than a mark of Berkshire mud on his scarlet coat.
On Tuesday evening Mr. Wade Clinton gave a farewell reading at the Town Hall, assisted by some musical friends, and a very excellent programme was issued. The attendance was not so large as at Mr. Clinton’s previous readings, but those present were certainly well entertained and the musical pieces especially were rapturously applauded.
1868 Sat 11th April
COUNTY BENCH 6TH APRIL (Before John L. Gower, Esq.)
James Donnelly of Westminster, London, slipper maker, was brought up in the custody of Supt. Millard charged with feloniously stealing thirteen pieces of copper wire netting from the stained glass windows of St. Paul’s Church, Wokingham, on the night of the 1st February last, the property of the churchwardens. The prisoner and his brother have been for a number of years engaged in robbing the wire guard work from the exterior of illuminated windows of and the prisoner was sentenced to four years penal servitude for this offence in January 1864. It will be remembered that on the morning of the 7th ult, two constables of the Reading Borough Police stopped two men near the Great Western Railway Station with a quantity of copper wire in their possession when one of them made his escape. The prisoner was apprehended by the superintendent of police at Wolverhampton in Staffordshire on the 3rd instant, and has been identified as the same man who then escaped. Supt. Millard applied for a remand until Wednesday, which was granted.
1868 Sat 6th June
ODD-FELLOWS’ FETE. On Whit-Monday the members of the new “Royal Forest” Lodge of Odd Fellows, No. 5066, celebrated their anniversary at Matthew’s Green, near Wokingham, the seat of Captain Elliott Morres. A procession, headed by the Reading Saxe Horn Band, paraded the town, and then proceeded to the Park.
At one o’clock an excellent dinner was provided under a spacious tent, the caterer being Mr Newcombe, of the “Hope and Anchor” Inn, Wokingham. John Walter Esq., presided, and was supported by – Walter Esq., the Rev. T J Browne, the Rev. T Morres, Capt. Morres, Dr. Barford, Dr Waite, Mr Munden, Mr Wescott, &c. – After dinner the loyal toasts were proposed by the Chairman, and Captain Morres and Lieutenant Walter responded for the “Army and Navy”. Mr Robert Blake, the secretary, then read the report from which it appeared that the Lodge was founded in 1862 with only thirteen members. The numbers have been gradually increased until this year they have reached 137. The receipts this year amounted to £4 10s and the expenditure to £3 2s.; but the total value now is £209 19s 8d., of which £190 2s. 11d. is in the Post Office Savings Bank. Eighteen members have been initiated during the present year.
The other toasts were – “The Bishop and Clergy,” “Success to the New Royal Forest Lodge,” &c. The Chairman said that if agreeable next year he should be happy to find a convenient place for the society at Bear Wood if they decided on paying him a visit. (Cheers.)
After dinner a variety of games were commenced and the festivities concluded with a ball at the “Hope and Anchor.”
1868 Sat 20th June
During the past week a movement has been set on foot in Wokingham to provide two or three hours of relaxation each week during the summer months for the assistants in the various business establishments to whom the enjoyment of the pleasant summer weather will be a boon much appreciated. It is arranged to close the shops at five o’clock every Wednesday (commencing next week) and from the unanimous feeling shown in favour of the scheme there is no doubt of its being generally adopted as the whole of the principal tradesmen have given their consent and it is especially gratifying to know that the plan originated with a few of the employers and not from the employed – a proof of kindness and consideration which will be truly valued.
The plan, we hear, has been adopted in various other places with the success and, where all join, the benefit is shared by all, and no one suffers in a business point of view.
1868 Sat 4th July
The holiday on Coronation Day was kept here on Monday last when we were glad to see the shops all closed, and early in the morning numerous pleasure parties might be seen wending their way in various directions, all bent on enjoying their annual summer day’s holiday. Many availed themselves of the excursion train to the seaside, a large party went to the fete at Whiteknights, some to the Crystal Palace, while others followed out their various ideas of pleasure in fishing parties, cricket matches, and other sources of amusement.
All returned home very tired, but very happy, and we have little doubt much the better for the enjoyment of the fresh air and the beautiful weather, to apply themselves with renewed energy to their business avocations, so rarely interrupted in so pleasant a manner.
1868 Sat 5th September
TREAT TO WORKMEN
On Tuesday last the men employed by Mr Allaway, builder of Wokingham, had their usual excursion. The place chosen this year was the Crystal Palace on account of the Great Temperance Fete which took place on that day, most of the men being teetotallers.
Everything went off successfully and the men were well satisfied with their day out.
1868 Sat 19th September
The Town Hall is now being thoroughly repaired and decorated by Mr Frith of this town and when completed will no doubt present a very nice appearance. The interior has not yet been renovated since the building was first completed.
1868 Sat. 24th October
SANGER’S CIRCUS This immense company paid a visit to this town last Saturday where their parade through the principal streets excited much interest and admiration. The camels and elephants were especially attractive. There were two performances during the day; that in the morning was pretty well patronised and in the evening the tent was thronged.
The performances were excellent throughout and the feats of the equestrians and acrobats, and the Arab troupe were particularly astonishing.
1868 Sat 31st October
WINDSOR FOREST TURNPIKE. This trust will expire tomorrow (Sunday) at twelve o’clock at which hour the gates will be thrown open, and no further tolls taken, and as soon as practicable, the toll houses, side bars, and other property of the trustees will be sold and cleared away. The future repair of the road will fall on the various parishes through which it passes.
1868 Sat 12th December
GALE BLOWS DOWN ELM TREE. The terrific gale of Sunday night laid low an object of much local interest in the town – the fine old elm tree near the Roe Buck Inn, in the Market Place, which was regarded as a great ornament. The tree fell about half past one in the morning with a loud crash arousing many of those living near from their sleep. It was fortunate the disaster happened in the night when there was no one about and also that it fell towards the centre of the Market Place. Formerly there were several elms in Broad Street but they have disappeared one by one until the tree in the Market Place alone remained as a relic of past ages, and the theme of many’s a tale of hairbreadth escapes when on bull-baiting days our forefathers occasionally had to scramble into the friendly tree for safety.