Redlands Conservation Area
The Redlands Conservation Area comprises a tightly drawn essentially Victorian/Edwardian suburb of Reading, loosely centred around Christchurch Green, bounded by Redlands Road, Upper Redlands Road and Elmhurst Road.
The boundaries of the area are indicated on the Appraisal Map appended to this report. It was formally designated on 12 February 1991 following a period of public consultation, which resulted in the amendment of the originally proposed boundary by the addition of Wantage Hall and the University Music Department fronting Upper Redlands Road.Apart from three properties on Christchurch Road, which date from about 1800, the area has no listed buildings, although attempts are being made to list Wantage Hall. Notwithstanding this, the area contains a wide variety of house types and architectural styles from the Victorian and Edwardian periods, the majority of which retain their original character The earliest houses date from around the 1850s. Much of New Road and the south side of Upper Redlands Road was developed by 1873. This contrasts with Marlborough Avenue and the north side of Elmhurst Road, where development was not begin until the 1890s.
The sheer variety, exuberance and blending of the architectural styles of the
Victorian period in such close proximity makes the area attractive and worthy
of Conservation Area status. This is reinforced by the retention of boundary
walls and railings throughout the area which, together with mature tree cover,
give the area its coherence.
Location, topography and setting
The boundaries of the Redlands Conservation Area are shown at Appendix 2. The area lies about 2km south east of Reading centre, approximately south of Reading’s original University campus and The Royal Berkshire Hospital fronting on to the main London Road (A4) out of Reading, and north (west) the main Reading University campus at Whiteknights Park, with which some current uses and occupiers in the area are inextricably linked. Redlands Road, which forms the western boundary of the area links London Road with Christchurch Road to
the south of the area, itself leading to the main Shinfield Road (A327) out of Reading (passing in front of the Whiteknights campus). Properties immediately surrounding the defined conservation area tend to be of more recent date, although there are older properties to the north, on the west side of Redlands Road, which are situated in the recently designated Kendrick Conservation Area. The shops on the south side of Christchurch Road, according to OS map information, date from post 1900. At the time of the original designation of the Redlands Conservation Area these were not considered as appropriate for inclusion within the area because of their more recent date, the fact that they are much altered externally and their obvious separation from the designated Conservation Area by the busy Christchurch Road. The area is situated at the top of a rise southwards from London Road. The
area is generally flat, which limits views into and out of the area.
The effect of historic development on plan form
The designated Conservation Area is essentially defined by the triangle of roads
comprising Redlands Road, Upper Redlands Road and Elmhurst Road, all thought to be early routes. The 1873 First Edition OS Map shows these roads to be home to fairly substantial villas both within the area and further to the east, the exception being the more tightly knit New Road. Marlborough Avenue does not appear at that date. The 1899 OS Map shows Marlborough Avenue and Elmhurst Road (at that time labelled Alexandra Road) only partly built, and the “Whiteknights campus” was still as yet fields. It would therefore be difficult to describe this area as a planned development in any strict sense, although clearly the area forms part of the post-railway expansion and development of Reading.
Upper Redlands Road and 17-19 Redlands Road.
This area is mainly characterised by large detached and semi-detached houses standing in extensive and well-treed grounds. Reading University owns a number of these properties - 35, 35a, 37, 45 and Wantage Hall in Upper Redlands Road, and 17-19 Redlands Road. The architectural styles vary from the simple plain red brick style of the 1850s to later stucco villas (some very large) with Italianate and classical features, in particular, 17 and 19 Redlands
Road. 35a Upper Redlands Road is an interesting gothic style building which turns the corner of New Road.
Wantage Hall is apparently one of the first purpose built Halls of Residence. Built in “Oxford cloister-style”, it presents an unspoilt appearance in landscaped grounds. It was opened in 1908, and named after Lord Wantage, first President of the University College of Reading University. It is situated on land formerly part of the grounds of Red Lane House, which was occupied by James Simmonds up to his death in 1893. The land was purchased for University College by Lady Wantage. Properties here and throughout the Conservation Area are “linked” by frontage brick walls and/or low brick walls with railings above, and good tree cover behind.
This is a quiet and more intimate road of smaller early Victorian houses and cottages, of which a great deal of the original character remains (although some unsympathetic additions have been made). The general character of housing in this part of the area is of plain red brickwork, sometimes with a contrasting band of grey bricks marking the division between the floors, low pitched slate roofs, four paneled doors with arched fanlights and glazing bar
sash windows (9 and 12 panes). Numbers 20 Hill and Myrtle Cottages, 28, 30, 40 and 23 add particular vitality to the area. Again, properties here are “linked” by frontage brick walls and/or low brick walls with railings above.
Marlborough Avenue and Elmhurst Road.
The houses in these streets date from the 1890s and comprise larger semidetached and detached houses. Each detached house or pair of semi-detached houses is different in their detailing, with extensive use made of decorative mouldings and patterned brickwork. The main colour here is grey, with cream and red brick detailing. Other interesting features include: decorative stone lintels and relieving arch at first floor level at 1 and 3 Marlborough Avenue; herringbone patterning on the front roof gables of 5 and 7 Marlborough Avenue;
and Gothic style patterning at 58/60 Elmhurst Road. There are also four pairs of semi-detached properties in the “Old English Revival Style”, with large triangular roof dormers with matching porch canopies, which extend over the adjoining bays. These properties also have distinctive red clay roofs.
One characteristic of these streets is that all properties “front” south. This is not a problem in Elmhurst Road where the properties face the playing fields and, in part, tree cover of the University campus, but the “backs” of properties in Elmhurst Road face the south side of Marlborough Avenue, giving a view of high brick walls, which in themselves are not unattractive, and garage entrances, which are clearly less attractive, particularly behind numbers 78-84 Elmhurst Road.
Again, properties here are “linked” by frontage brick walls and/or low brick
walls with railings above.
Marlborough Avenue has benefited from recent street tree planting on both
sides of the road.
The corner triangle
between Redlands Road and Christchurch Road.
85-89 Christchurch Road are listed buildings, but number 91 Christchurch Road/72 Redlands Road is a good example of patterned brickwork, with a patterned slate roof (a mix of plain and fishscale slates) and decorative carved barge boards. The prominent corner location of this building also enhances its value at the Christchurch Green entrance to the Conservation Area. The remaining houses at 64-70 Redlands Road comprise a terrace of four
Edwardian villas, which whilst not of the quality of those in Marlborough Avenue, do contain attractive features. Number 70 for example contains an interesting full height bay with hipped roof, and the others contain decorative half-timbered dormers, projecting canopies with console supports and a series of circular windows.
91 Christchurch Rd / 72 Redlands Rd
The area behind numbers 89/91 Christchurch Road and between 72 and 70
Redlands Road presents a generally unsightly garage court and parking area fully open to view from the road. Again, properties here are “linked” by frontage brick walls and/or low brick walls with railings above.
In addition to the historical associations already mentioned in 6.1 above, 37 Upper Redlands Road belonged to the Palmer family, and 21 & 23 were built by William Isaac Palmer for employees. There is also a strong connection with the University, situated as it is between the original University College buildings to the north on London Road and the northern end of Redlands Road, and Whiteknights Park to the south which was acquired for the University in 1947. Much of this area was developed in Victorian times, and Alfred Waterhouse, famous for many Victorian buildings throughout the country as well as in Reading itself, bought a plot of land in Whiteknights Park to build himself a house. This was called Foxhill.