10 things you should know about Tilehurst
PUBLISHED: 09:12 13 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:02 13 February 2020
Famed for its tile production and palatial parks, Tilehurst is very much part of Reading, but still has a village feel, as Claire Pitcher finds out
'The wooded hill where tiles are made' is the meaning of Tygel-Hurst, as Tilehurst was once known in Saxon times. But is that really true? A little rummage through the history books and you soon discover that the tile industry didn't really get underway in this area until the middle of the 17th century. During this time, Tilehurst used to encompass a huge area with many manors, the main manor house being in Calcot Park. It wasn't until 1911 that the village became a part of the Borough of Reading. Following the Second World War there was a housing boom that turned Tilehurst into a large-scale residential area. Look past the 1950s and '60s housing developments and you will still find a smattering of thatched cottages in among them.
Water, water everywhere
How many commuters drive west along the M4 towards Reading and wonder what on earth this large white tower is for? It has been supplying water to the area since it was installed by Reading Borough Council in 1932. It is often referred to as Park Lane Water Tower and supplements the water from the Bath Road Reservoir. It stands at 40 metres and has 169 steps to the top. There are some amazing panoramic views, taking in Didcot Power Station and Windsor Castle. It can hold 900,000 litres of water in two four-and-a-half metre tanks. That's enough wet stuff to fill up about 5,000 bathtubs. More water might be needed however, as Reading's Local Plan includes thousands of new homes for the area.
Top for tiles
Reading's association with bricks and tiles is well known, the town having been the centre of production since medieval times. In fact, a medieval kiln was uncovered just 19 years ago in Silver Street on Jubilee Square. Tilehurst was once one of the centres of manufacturing along with Caversham and Calcot. The making of the bricks and tiles was hard work with long hours, but evidence of them can still be seen in Reading's Victorian and Georgian buildings, such as the Town Hall. Tilehurst became the base for Reading's largest brickmakers, S & E Collier from 1870 to 1966, producing 'Reading Red' bricks as well as pottery. Tilehurst Potteries at Kentwood Hill was also a well-known company that specialised in tiles and flowerpots.
In the 1760s, what was once a humble farmhouse at Dirle's Farm got reimagined into a stunning mansion house and its grounds became known as Prospect Hill Park. Today, it remains Reading's biggest open space and commands views across the stunning Kennet Valley. Those views can best be taken in from the restaurant, which sits at the highest point. Who would have thought you could enjoy dining in one of the area's most important Grade II-listed Regency buildings. For most, the favourite way of seeing the park is from the mini steam train. Run by volunteers, the train leaves the station at the Bath Road entrance on the first Sunday of each month. It's a great way to spot wildlife and to save your aching legs after exploring.
Perhaps it is because it's so close to London, or perhaps it is because of all that Berkshire has to offer - we will never know - but Tilehurst has had its fair share of famous residents. Formula 1 fans will probably already know that Ayrton Senna lived on the Pottery Road estate in the 1980s. Famous actor and director Kenneth Branagh went to Meadway School in the '70s. Musician Mike Oldfield grew up in Tilehurst and, last but not least, while his father was stationed in the UK in the '60s, musician Bryan Adams lived in Tilehurst for a while.
The Potato in a Pot Challenge, Best Pot Plant, Best Vase of Flowers and Best Dish of Veg are just four of the categories in Tilehurst Horticultural Association's Summer Show. It is held each year on the first Saturday of August at the Tilehurst Village Hall. This is an occasion for all the local residents to celebrate, with winning entries from young and old, and plenty of families going along to visit and witness the best on show. Find our more about this year's Summer Show at tilehurstha.org.uk
A short drive from the centre of Tilehurst brings you to the beautiful Moor Copse. It's said that this serene setting helped inspire E. H. Shepard to illustrate The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Situated in the Pang Valley and consisting of woodland, meadows and pastures, with the River Pang meandering through it, you can explore the landscape any time of year and you will discover something new. From butterflies and water voles and demoiselle dragonflies to fungi and flowers, during the seasons you spot them all as you follow the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordhire Wildlife Trust's walking trails through the copse. Indeed, this nature reserve even has Royal approval as the wildflower meadows have actually been named Coronation Meadows because of its sheer variety and abundance of wildlife, flora and fauna. If you have never visited, download the trail walks from bbowt.org.uk
All steamed up
Each October, everyone awaits the arrival of the brilliant Carters Steam Fair to Prospect Park. Steam gallopers, a chair 'o' plane, steam yachts and swing boats, this is a chance to experience the thrills and spills of a bygone era. Entry is free, but you need to buy tokens for the rides. It's a feast for the senses, with rock 'n' roll tunes, twinkling lights, a fairground organ playing and the delicious aromas of candy floss, doughnuts and coal. Find out when the fair will be coming to town and pre-buy tokens on their website at carterssteamfair.co.uk
Did you know that Tilehurst is home to family owned bakery Warings, Reading's oldest since 1932? But fresh bread and delicious cakes aren't the only things catered for in the village. Another family owned business is Angles of Art, framing to the highest quality for 20 years. Taking great care of anything from much-loved artworks to priceless memorabilia, the family team will keep your pieces well protected from the ravages of time. There's also that all-important hardware store, C&G Hardware, selling everything from birdseed to paint brushes, and there's the Village Coffee Shop in The Triangle - a popular meeting place to get together for a chat over tea and cake. Don't forget to stop by the village florist, newsagents, as well as Tilehurst Schoolwear to purchase uniforms for the new school year.
Have you taken the little ones to Red Kangaroo trampoline park yet? It's fun for all the family, with not just trampolines. They also have battle beams, ninja warrior, a tumble track and Wipeout. They are open seven days a week and there are three session types to choose from: Kanga Tots, Kanga Family and Kanga Bounce. Take a virtual tour and book your places online at redkangaroo.co.uk