Foxhill House is one of those unique buildings that speaks of romance, elegance, and an historical eloquence that refers to and informs on our traditions and history.
Set in the grounds of Whiteknights Park (now the grounds of the University of Reading) in the south of Reading in Earley, it is a Gothic Revival late-Victorian masterpiece. Stroll up what is now termed Foxhill Drive from the junction of Eastern Avenue-Upper Redlands Road -Whiteknights Road, and you come upon the house from a broad sweep, it is classic image of England.
It was originally built by the famous architect Alfred Waterhouse in 1868 as his own residence (he also built the nearby Old Whiteknights House for his father). The House is built of red brick (for which Reading is famous, the Victorian novelist Thomas Hardy in his "Wessex Novels" called Reading 'Auld Brickham') and red carved brick of delightful detail. The stained glass windows are a beautiful feature. When I first came to Reading as a student in 1968, the freshers of Windsor Hall were invited to Foxhill House for drinks and a tour by the more senior student and residents. It made one feel that coming to Reading University one had come to somewhere special. The wonderful Games Room was still intact then as was the magnificent Library.
Alfred Waterhouse did not live here for very long. By 1871 he was living in nearby Sonning and one Charles West and his wife were living at Foxhill. The Wests were still there in 1881 but there were at least two further changes of ownership during the rest of the century. In 1878 he purchased the Manor of Yattendon.
Rufus Daniel Isaacs
The House was later occupied by Rufus Daniel Isaacs, Liberal MP for Reading and later the 1st. Marquess of Reading. Isaacs had a long and illustrious career: he was former Ambassador to the USA; Attorney General; Chief Justice, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and Viceroy of India.. He was elevated to the peerage in 1944, then created Viscount Reading of Erleigh in 1916, Earl of Reading along with the subsidiary title of Viscount Erleigh, of Erleigh in the County of Berkshire, in 1917; and eventually Marquess of Reading in 1926. This was the highest rank in the Peerage reached by a Jew in British history. He had been knighted in 1910, made a KCVO in 1911, a GCB in 1915, a GCSI and GCIE in 1921 (upon appointment as Viceroy of India) and a GCVO in 1922. Isaacs married Alice Edith Cohen in 1887. Lady Reading was a chronic invalid, who eventually died of cancer a year after Reading's viceroyalty ended. He then married Stella Charnaud, the first Lady Reading's secretary.
The current Marquess, Simon Charles Henry Rufus Isaacs (born 1942) is 4th Marquess of Reading (b. 1942)
When I was a student here the Windsor Hall annual Formal wqas somewhat sopevcial sibnce you coukld hire a ride in a horse and careraieg which woud drive down to Foxhill and back again. Whether it was true or not, I do not know, but we were told that the carriage and horses came from the then Marquess' stables.
to be added
Aleister Crowley & The Golden Dawn?
Strange tales circulated in the 1970's and 80's about Satanic goings-on in Foxhill House in the nineteenth century. As romantic and fascinating as this might be there is no factual evidence for this, but only conjecture. There is certainly no evidence that Alistair Crowley (the renowned magickian and one time leader of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and occult adventurer) lived here nor that he even visited. As for the other evidence, it is intriguing but utterly inconclusive: a) that the stained glass windows holds the key to some devil worshipping code and b) that the fireplace of the main room of Foxhill had a scene of the Nativity, implying that when the fire was lit the Madonna and infant Christ roasted! Intriguing stuff, but the stuff of folk hearsay nevertheless which if left gradually melds into legend or half truth. It is however something which might well have appealed to Crowley's irreverent and mischievous sense of humour!
Furthermore research by others (eg Robert Cutts) suggest that the fireplace was installed when the house was built, and as Waterhouse was from a Quaker family the legend is further demolished!
Foxhill House Today
It was for a long time period used as student accommodation (as an Annexe of Windsor Hall in fact). Foxhill House was extensively restored between 2003 and 2005, and is now the home of the University's School of Law. In 2007 the courtyard of the building was refurbished with a grant from Price-Waterhouse-Coopers in memory of Edwin Waterhouse, who was both a co-founder of that company and the brother of the building's architect. Foxhill House is a Grade II Listed Building.
The House overlooks Whiteknights Lake, and the views of the house from the other side of the lake are spectacular. There are the remains of a boating house which can be seen down at the shore of the lake.
There are fine views of the house to be had (additional to the one I have mentioned form Foxhill Drive) from different parts of Whiteknights Lake. Similarly one must conclude that the views of the Lake and Park for the inhabitants of Foxhill would have been quite wonderful.
Stained glass window