A Brief Overview
Caversham Court garden is of national importance and listed in the English Heritage 'Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England'.
The house was built for the canon for St Peter’s Church. However it was found more profitable to lease it to a layman who was responsible for providing a priest.
Romanesque corbels at the top of the griffin steps may have come from Reading Abbey after its dissolution in the 16th century.
Members of the Auxiliary Fire Service at Caversham Court in 1940
The Alexander/Milward family were lay tenants of the property from mid century until the early 1600s. William and Katherine and their children lived in the Black and White House. He was a money lender whose legal battles are all documented and held by the National Archives. The name of his son Richard was in legal student text books right up to the last century as a warning about failing to present a case concisely to the judge.
The Alexanders were in Caversham right up until the Civil War and the occupants of the house must have been aware of the battles fought around them and the movement of troops
The gazebo (summerhouse) overlooking the Thames was built by 1663. The original weathervane is in St Peter’s Church; the 21st century replica here is in memory of Molly Casey, a local campaigner.
The Loveday family who lived here from 1665 until 1799 planted the yew hedge along long walk. They were occupants during the Battle of Reading in 1688, when soldiers were billeted on Mrs Loveday. This was the only substantial military action in England during the overthrow of King James 11 which ended in a victory for forces of William 111 of Orange.
Further information about John Loveday: http://johnlovedayofcaversham.co.uk/index.htm
The Simonds family, Reading’s banking and brewing family, remodelled the house, turning it into a splendid Gothic mansion.
The house had many occupants, including:
• Lady Elizabeth Mosley, grandmother of Fascist leader Oswald Mosley;
• Thaddeus Arathoon, a wealthy Armenian trader
• Mary de Pledge, famous for breeding the Caversham strain of Pekingese dogs.
The house was renamed Caversham Court in the 1920s.
In 1931 Reading Corporation bought Caversham Court. It demolished the house, as it had gradually declined and built the Arts and Crafts-style toilet block – now the Tea Kiosk – and opened the gardens as public park in 1934.
During World War 2, allotments in the former kitchen gardens were part of the 'Dig for Victory' campaign. The Anderson Shelter - a public air raid shelter - was built to the right of main entrance.
2008-2009 The gardens were refurbished with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and reopened In August 2009.
The gazebo was refurbished, the timeline on the causeway introduced, house footprints created, and the vinery excavated, and pond and vaults rediscovered.
2010 The gardens won four awards: Green Flag; Green Heritage Site; Britain in Bloom Best Regional Park in the Thames and Chiltern region; and a British Association of Landscape Industries national award for restoration.
Caversham Court has also won the Green Flag and the Heritage Green Flag every year up to date.
Following a regional gold medal in the 2011 Britain in Bloom competition, the gardens won an RHS award for Horticulture in 2015.
A Heritage Guide: Caversham Court Gardens was published by Two Rivers Press at the end of 2012. The guide was written by the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens as part of the Caversham 100 Years On project, and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.