The garden was due to be opened in 2020 to raise funds for the National Garden’s Scheme. Sadly this was not to be. However we commissioned a video about the garden which has now been viewed 5,300 times. It may be seen by following this link Watlington House, Reading; a garden for the future with a link to the past – National Garden Scheme (ngs.org.uk)
The garden will be opened Sunday 3rd July 2022 from mid morning to late afternoon. We will share full details in due course.
Below the garden during summer 2021
Watlington House Trust is committed to:
Promoting a safer environment and culture for users of its house and Garden Hall.
Safely recruiting and supporting all those with any responsibility related to children, young people and vulnerable adults on our premises, be they business tenants of the house or hirers (regular or occasional) of the Garden Hall.
Responding promptly to every safeguarding concern or allegation.
Responding to those that may pose a present risk to others.
The members of the Watlington House Trust will:
Create a safe and caring place for all.
Have a named Safeguarding Trustee to work with the Chairman ( the lead SO) and the other Trustees and tenants to implement policy and procedures.
To support all those using our premises with any responsibility for children, young people and adults to have the confidence and skills to recognise and respond to abuse.
Display in Watlington House premises, and on the website, the details of who to contact if there are safeguarding concerns or support needs.
Listen to and take seriously all those who disclose abuse.
Take steps to protect children and adults when a safeguarding concern of any kind arises.
Offer support and guidance to victims/survivors of abuse regardless of the type of abuse, when or where it occurred.
Ensure that health and safety policy, procedures and risk assessments are in place and that these are reviewed annually.
This policy will be reviewed within 3 months and implementation of the Safeguarding Policy, Procedures and Practices will be reviewed at least annually.
Each member of the Watlington House Trust will agree to abide by this policy, including its regular contractor who provides support to maintain the house and takes bookings for the Hall.
The Safeguarding Trustee is Richard Bennett (Hon Sec) and the Lead Safeguarding Officer is Canon Brian Shenton.
The context of Watlington House.
We have no employees and no volunteers. There are 7 Trustees. In addition the Maintenance / Facilities Manager is on contract hire who arranges the hire of the hall with potential users
There are 5 longstanding tenants of the House, their business and Safeguarding status is below;
|Team works with Youth Across Berkshire. Also has premises in Newbury.||Has its own Safeguarding Policy|
The Mills Archive
|A team of staff and volunteers who come to the house to undertake research||
Has its own Safeguarding Policy
An experienced, young, professional and design-led studio with a rapidly growing portfolio of clients and projects.
Does not have a Safeguarding Policy (12/10/21)
Total Security Corps Ltd tscltd.co.uk
Small company which provides Training in the Security Industry to young people
To be verified.
Reserve Forces Employment Association
|RFEA exists to provide life-long, life changing support, jobs and training opportunities to service leavers and veterans, irrespective of circumstances, rank, length of service, or reason for leaving.||
Safeguarding Policy as part of the overall RFEA Charity
Users of the Garden Hall
In pre-Covid times we had a number of regular users of the Garden Hall for short periods of time. These included;
Readifolk Readifolk – Reading’s Folk Club
Alcoholics Anonymous. If this is part of the national organisation it will be subject to national Safeguarding Policy. To be verified.
Yoga Groups and exercise groups
Local Societies (such as Reading Civic Society) occasionally hire the hall for meetings of their members.
Occasionally family groups, from all cultures, hire the hall for parties to celebrate birthdays and weddings
Occasional Businesses hire of the hall and the small meeting room for recruitment, presentations, and small meetings.
Whilst the Vaccination Hub is working again (through to December) we are gradually starting to take bookings again.
We will ask our regular users to provide us with details of their Safeguarding Policies and where they don’t exist press them to have one.
Events organised by Trustees in which they engage directly with members of the public of all ages
Heritage Open Days (we open for a day September each year ) An explanation of the history of the house and the Garden is led by 2-3 Trustees.
Visitors usually have the opportunity to visit some of the rooms in the house to visit activities run by a couple of the tenants
Opening of the Garden for the National Garden Scheme for a single day in July – first to be held in 2022.
Updated 15 October 2021
Updated 19 March 2022
Access to the Garden Hall and Meeting room is through the gateway opposite to 71 South Street, RG1 4RA (see contact us for map).
There is NO access via the house on 44 Watlington Street so please do NOT give your participants the Watlington Street address or post code.
Charges Effective September 2020
Booking times should include time required for set up and tidy up.
Garden Hall Days – during the week & weekends £20.00 per hour. Evening bookings 6.00pm – 10pm = £150.00.
Small Meeting Room £15 per hour.
Businesses / Individuals.
Garden Hall £30 per hour. Evening bookings 6.00pm – 10pm = £200.00.
Small Meeting Room £20 per hour.
Bookings, including the smaller meeting room, may be seen: Current hall bookings
For all bookings please complete the Hall booking enquiry form and sign the Conditions of Hiring the Garden Hall/ Meeting Room: Hire Conditions
Both should be sent to Michael Jones on email@example.com
From March 2022 we will prioritise youth and exercise groups, community users (charities or individuals), mutual aid groups and business users.
At the moment we will NOT take bookings for Wedding Celebrations, 18th / 21st Birthday parties or other parties.
Government COVOD restrictions at the time of booking and at the date the event is held will apply.
To protect their guests organisers should wipe touchable surfaces before their guests arrive and after their event (wipes are provided). This should include the outside loos. For exercise groups this should include using the sanitising equipment over the wooden floor.
In normal times the Garden Hall will hold around 100 people for a standing reception. Seated around 60. The Small Meeting room is 6.
For exercise / yoga and other such physical events where common sense dictates that distance between participants is necessary we suggest practically this would be around 12.
Organisers must assess the risks in their Event Management Plan and Risk Assessment.
Deposits for bookings
A deposit of £250 is required for evening/ weekend events in the Garden Hall. Event bookings during the day do not normally require a deposit.
Deposits will be banked but returned if no problems occur.
The cancellation policy is detailed in the Booking Conditions of Hire form.
Hall Enquiry Form contact.
We believe you will be delighted by our Oasis hidden away in the centre of Reading where you can relax and enjoy the garden and hall in peace and tranquillity. We have a large (24 x 41ft) Garden Hall which is set within our recently restored Gardens for all to enjoy. A video of the gardens may be seen The Garden Restoration
The site is no-smoking throughout.
The Mayoress of Reading recently described the Garden Hall as having the feel of a Scout hut, with a difference. The Mayoress was not wrong as after its time as a school hall, for Kendrick Girls School, it has been used by Guide and Scout groups but also the by the WI, dance and fitness groups, and for society AGMs. It has however been updated considerably.
The hall is on one level throughout. We have not as yet been able to make access wheelchair friendly, the doors of the late 1880s building are narrow, there are ramps to ease access.
Flip charts, a light projector and small plug in speakers are available but we do not have any other audio visual equipment. There is a large blank wall to project onto. There is a BT Broadband for customers use.
The professionally furbished kitchen has direct access to the hall and is equipped with an oven, urn, fridge, microwave, adequate sink and preparation tables. In normal times there are 50 cups, saucers and side plates, jugs for juice and some cutlery such as forks and teaspoons. However during the CV 19 pandemic we ask that all crockery/ cutlery is provided by the hirer along with any specific catering services.
Constraints on use
The garden Hall is licenced for entertainment (Performing Rights Society) but does not hold an alcohol licence (this means you can provide alcohol for your guests but you many not sell it) nor is there a bar. Outside bars may however be brought in as well as discos or other entertainments and even a chippy van to be a bit different. We do however require that all debris is cleared on departure, or that arrangements are made on booking if this is not practical (e.g. next morning after a party).
The Small Meeting Room (Note at April 2022 for the foreseeable future this is booked for Medical use)
We also have a small meeting room available for hire during the daytime and evenings. In normal times this will accommodate a meeting of 10 people or as an office 2-3. During the CV 19 pandemic this is constrained to 4. A completely self contained heated room it comes with a kitchenette and toilet facilities. You also have the opportunity to take full advantage of the garden to relax from the meeting or team building exercise.
We can only offer secure parking for 2 cars during the weekday daytime. We can though accommodate 25 cars during the evening and weekends. There is metered parking in South Street itself. We are close to good bus routes and a short walk from the town centre, Reading Station is approximately a 15 minute walk.
Want to make a booking?
COVID has not gone away.
Running an event safely in a COVID safe manner for you participants is your business. Sanitisers are provided at the entrances to the rooms.
In the Garden Hall there are two entrances which may be used for entrance and exit. In the kitchen there are easy to use “mops” which may be used to sanitise the floors, such as by exercise groups if participants touch the floor, before and after their event. There are also surface wipes available.
Organisers PLEASE check that before departure the loos have been flushed (you would be horrified!) and that the lights in the loos and the hall are switched off.
Updated 19 March 2022
Welcome to Watlington House. Reading’s oldest occupied Building in the heart of Reading . On this website you will be able to find out about the current uses of the house, how to hire the Garden Hall, the History of the house, the Garden Restoration (along with a virtual tour of the garden commissioned in June 2020) and the planned opening of the garden for the NGS on 3rd July 2022.
Works to the front of the house May 2020 to October 2021
We commissioned improvement work to the front garden in May 2020. Inevitably delayed by the impact of the pandemic on the supply of materials and our builder’s worforce it was not complete until September 2021 We were supported by the Earley Charity who gave a grant of £19,000 as part of their Bi Centenary celebrations. It has made a significant improvement to the presence of the building as it stands on Watlington Street.
We still have to decide what type of barrier to erect to guard the two vehicle entrances.
Heritage Open Days 2020
We were planning to open the house and garden this year, the Pandemic prevents this. Instead we have commissioned a virtual tour which we hope you will enjoy. Please visit us next year.
Mayoral Visit in August 2020 to celebrate Heritage Open Days in Reading
On 7 August we were delighted to welcome the Mayor and Mayoress of Reading, Cllr David and Mrs Alison Stevens and with Cllr Karen Rowland (Heritage Champion RBC) to Watlington House. We were able to tell them about the history of the house and to meet 3 of our 5 tenants, Weston & Co Architects, the Reserve Forces Employment Association and the Mills Archive. They also filmed a “Welcome to Heritage Open Days in Reading” which will be used by Reading UK to promote the event and this year’s theme Hidden Nature.
A video of their visit may be seen HERE
Heritage Open Days in previous years
We have opened the house in the past for Heritage Open Days. In 2018 when we opened for the first time in several years the Mills Archive stopped counting at around 300 visitors. The some 120 in 2019 was more manageable.
Opening the garden for the National Garden Scheme and the Virtual Tour
A garden for the future with a link to the past
It had been planned to open the garden in July 2020 for the first time for the NGS to raise funds for nursing charities. The CV19 pandemic meant this was not possible. However, like many other gardens, we organised a virtual tour of the garden.
We were delighted that the Mayor and Mayoress of Reading (Cllr David Stevens and Mrs Stevens) visited the garden in July to launch the virtual tour. They used to live in the nearby streets and the garden was a total surprise to them.
The video may be seen HERE
If you enjoy your tour please consider making a donation to the NGS. However as the Garden Hall was used as a Vaccination hub for much of 2021 the gardens have seen by thousands of people who will not have been previously aware of it.
During the virtual tour the trustees explain about the house and garden, the planned changes and why they like the house and the garden. A landscape gardener and neighbour talks about pruning the box parterre and dealing with the threat of box moth.
During the tour the sound of traffic (even in the middle of the lockdown), construction work and ambulance sirens intermingle with shots of the garden, the trustees explanations, gentle birdsong and a persistent crow. This highlights the position of the garden in bustling Reading.
History of the Garden at the Rear of the House
When the house was built in the 1660s it would have had a garden of the period. A map from the 1722 shows that the garden had a cruciform shape.
This was still evident in a survey from 1877 and in 1944 the quadrant paths could be seen in aerial photographs.
The house, and the gardens, have had many uses. Between 1877 and 1927 it was the first home for Kendrick Girls. Kendrick School, children are shown in the garden in postcard from 1895 below left.It was was used for country dancing when the WI was here. In 1951 the Berkshire Federation of Women’s Institute undertook a restoration of the garden as their Festival of Britain Project.
However by around 2010 the garden had become little more than muddy car park. Something had to be done.
One of our Trustees, Clive Williams OBE was the executor of the Late Geoff Hill, a former Gurkha Officer.
Clive persuaded his fellow executors that a grant to the house to enable the garden restoration would have been something Geoff would have loved. This was agreed and it was decided to call the garden after him, thus the Geoff Hill Memorial Garden.
Using archival research, the Watlington House Trust led by Trustee and garden designer Gaila Adair worked to bring the garden back to life. She borrowed from the past to create a garden fit for purpose in the 21st century. The uninspiring car park has been transformed into a peaceful space for workers at the house, the community and for visitors. Trustees worked closely with the Berkshire Gardens Trust developing the design for the garden. Work on the design started in 2012.
It was decided that the restoration should reflect the William and Mary period of the house. The design of the parterre was based on the Watlington coat of arms
The quadrant design with linking paths, similar to Oxford Physic garden, was evident through using research, aerial photos and old surveys. Samuel Watlington’s uncle, John Watlington, was an apothecary who taught Elias Ashmole who influenced the design of the Oxford Physic.
As Gaila says “Many plants chosen for the garden are herbs or cultivars of herbs. This gives a visual link to the apothecary heritage of the Watlington family. Many gardens of the William and Mary genre would have also been fruit producing, hence the pear espaliers, vines, quince and apple half standards. Augmented with tulips, agapanthus and irises this give all year round colour. The panel of pleached hornbeam provides symmetry and screening of the garden hall and allows light to flood between them to the quadrant seating areas. The box hedging and clipped yew spires give further formality and acts as full stops to each quadrant. The overall effect is a year round clock of production, a visual timepiece of Watlington House.”
The restored garden was opened in Summer 2015. As may be seen from the images of the garden below by July 2020 it had matured well. It was time to open it for the public under the National Garden Scheme.
If you wish to contact us for bookings etc your contact is firstname.lastname@example.org
To access the Garden Hall this is only by the South Street entrance. There are barriers in the road between South Street and Watlington Street
The rear, western part of the building was built in 1688 for Samuel and Anne Watlington, whilst the eastern part, fronting onto Watlington Street, is said to date from 1763. Samuel Watlington served as mayor of Reading in 1695 and again in 1711.
The first recorded occupant of the house was Captain Edward Purvis in 1794, renting the house for £25 annually. He fought at the Battle of Corunna in the Peninsular War with the 4th Regiment of Foot and trained the Berkshire Militia in Orts meadow near his home. The house is rumoured to be haunted by his ghost. There have been many recorded incidents, some which are genuine others remain unexplained and we certainly have plenty of stories to tell along with people who have witnessed events.
After Captain Purvis, the house was variously occupied by a Mrs Stevens and then used as an office by the town clerk of Reading.
In 1877 the house became the first home of the newly founded Kendrick Girls School. The school remained on the site until 1927, when they moved to their current location on the corner of Sidmouth Street and London Road. During their stay they erected a corrugated iron hall in the garden, which still stands.
The house has been used by the local WI’s and from the photographs shown Watlington House was clearly very popular.
Since 1931, the building has been owned by local trustees. They provide accommodation for social and educational organisations, using the rents for the upkeep of Watlington House.
A Piece of Reading Abbey
Many houses in Reading retain flint in the building walls which is believed to come from Reading Abbey and their is clear evidence of this within the Walls for Watlington House. We know that Robert Watlington was commissioned to clear the remains from Reading Abbey, the remaining items mostly being timber & flint. In the oldest part of Watlington House an ancient Stone Plinth has been set in the wall in the area once used by TOC Chapel, this Stone Plinth was found on the premises whilst restoration work was completed, whether taken by Robert Watlington we cannot be certain, we do however know this to be from Reading Abbey and so this make the Plinth an important piece of skilled stone work.
The first Kendrick School
In 1877, Watlington House changed from being a family home to that of Kendrick School. This was to last for 50 years until the decision to leave this wonderful building was finally made and Kendrick moved into their new premises. Some old features from when Kendrick occupied the premises still exist; the outside toilets and Hall are the two most obvious. Drawings and notes taken from the pupils’ diaries help to give an idea of how Watlington House once played host to the range of lively activities that took place in the grounds.
The stone plinth above the front door has since been removed and can now been seen in the outer wall for the current Kendrick School, on Sidmouth Street.
7 August 2020. The Mayor and Mayoress of Reading, the RBC Heritage Champion, some Trustees and tenants; Mills Archive, Weston & Co Architects and Reserve Forces Employment Association.
The Watlington House Trust is run by a group of volunteers who give their own time to run this beautiful building.
The building itself is Grade II* protected and set in trust, meaning no one owns or profits from the building. The Watlington House Trust (Charity Number: 1158378) was formed in 1929 to oversee the building and running costs, and ensure the aims of the building are met. Whilst the trustees themselves have changed over the years, the format which the Committee follows remains very much unchanged along with our goal; to be a Centre of Excellence for Social & Welfare Needs.
The Trust meets 4 times a year and holds its AGM yearly. Our governing document is a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) Foundation. The Trust is run solely by its trustees, there is no voting membership and the AGM is open only to the Trustees, who are listed on the Charity Commission Website.
Further information about the Trust (Trustees, Governance, Financial Information) may be viewed on its page on the Charity Commission Website HERE .
We operate on a strictly non-profit basis, meaning no one other than tenants and the building itself can benefit. The income we receive is used to off set running costs and maintaining and refurbishing the building.
Who uses the House, Garden Hall and small meeting room?
We welcome in particular use of the Garden Hall and small meeting room by local community groups. Users range from the AA support group through to dance groups, Yoga and Zumba. Church groups have also held services here from time to time.
The hall and small meeting room may however also be hired by individuals (perhaps for weddings, parties) and companies (for meetings/ interviews, training or a quiet area to work in) but for this we charge a slightly higher hourly rate.
The hall and meeting room have BT Broadband installed which users may access. Users of the hall have the benefit of being able to use our wonderfully restored garden. There is also parking available for evening and weekend events.
For further details about prices, conditions and booking please go to Meeting room and Hall hire
The website of some of our Hall users is
and these are just a few………………………….