- Campaigners Observations on Restoration Progress
Mr Norman Bullock – 01/02/16
“The frontage now would have looked quite similar to what it would have looked like when it was opened in 1903. The exception being the canopy which is now approximately 150mm higher than it was originally. Principally it is to accommodate thermal insulation – whether or not it was originally painted green as it was in the 60s I cannot say. It was not mentioned in the original specification of works. Looking inside from the service entrance, the boarding underneath looks much as it did originally, with the herring bone pattern maintained throughout.
All of the canopy works seem to have been completed, needing only columns, brackets, and facia trim, some of them waiting to be painted in their finishing colour.
Walking along the front wire fence, affords tantalising glimpses of
the new layout. The newly restored sash windows now bathe light into the
front rooms as they once did. The octagon entrance was open when I last visited in December. A quick peek inside reveals both sides of the lobby walkway are now quite close to the original layout. The wall that once obstructed the right hand side of the lobby has gone, along with the bricked up original entrance to the bicycle room. The bicycle room can now be viewed directly, at least in part from inside the front doorway. However what is noticeably different is the ceiling height which has been lowered substantially to approximate 1 metre perhaps less. It was hard to judge from the limited perspective I had. This has been done to accommodate an upper storey. Looking through the window at a distance, there are stairs up and appear to have been the toilet room, that used to be to the left looking from the front of the building.
The chimney stack had been taken down earlier in the year and rebuilt, using blue-grey bricks as a direct replacement to the original red ones. However it does not look out of place, and surprisingly contrasts quite well with the new roof tiles. The new tiles overall look quite smart, as with the new canopy. It gives us a clue to what it must have looked like at the opening ceremony all those years ago. The octagon ridges look slightly different from the originals, having been laid in the continental style without mortar. The rest look as originally intended. I noted that they took several months to complete the tiling, which should have taken far less time. Perhaps this may have been due to a lack of suitable craftsman. The work requires a high level of skill for it to look ‘right.’ They appeared to be European. There never seemed more that two working on it at any given time each time I went. Little seemed to change from week to week, indeed, there never appeared to be more than 4 or 5 men working on the entire site.
When I spoke to Marcos (the man in charge of works) at the outset, he
expected the work would take a year and a half perhaps to 2 years at the most. At the start of December last year it was clear (at least to me) that the works were behind schedule. They had made a start demolishing the plant room annex but hadn’t got very far with it. The pace of work had noticeably quickened at that point, with many more workers working on it, as with the new north gallery and pool construction.
With all those extra workers I expect to see a big difference next time I
visit this February.
The Campaigners had regretfully seen their efforts coming to an end after 12 years. The campaigners saved the building from being replaced by car parks and International Hotels. The Meadow would have been lost to the people of Reading – a gift bestowed upon them by George Palmer.
The plus now is that the building is being restored but not quite as the Campaigners had set out themselves to do – for the Community. However, the building will be brought back to life and if it weren’t for the Campaign efforts this would not have been possible.
Update for Donators to the Kings Meadow Campaign
Thank you to all – whether it be pence, pounds or pounds plus.
For many years Ingrid Jensen from the Keep has been a keen supporter of our aims and has furthered her project to a stage where they are eligible to get matched funding and secure this last remenant of community culture in Reading.
Bob O’Neill met with her at their Heritage Open Day and looked around and could clearly see that their objects are very much in common with ours.
As a result of a consultation with the Government Charities solicitors, and no objections from the Kings Meadow Campaigners a donation was given to OHOS at the Keep for protection of that Grade II building.