Friends Studies

Artefacts from the Gardens

Several artefacts found in the soil of the Gardens have been identified by staff of Reading Museum. They include a 19th century glazed stone bottle, German in origin probably to contain mineral water, a bowl of a 16th century clay pipe and various pieces of ceramic ware. Also found was a small iron shoe probably off a garden boys boot. Artefacts are held in the gardens by our Head Gardener, Will Paice.

A Very Odd Wall

A wall in the Gardens has features which puzzle everyon, including Susan Campbell of the Historic Gardens Network, an expert on kitchen garden walls, who says that it is the oddest one she has ever seen. this is the western boundary wall of the allotments which can best be seen from The Warren between the churchyard path and the Reading Canoe club gate. It is not a heated wall that might be expected in a kitchen garden. Susan's comment sent a group of the Friends off on a search for an explanation. Vickie Abel and Tim and Gill Clark went to museums and libraries, asked the experts, including John Evans, looked at other gardens with walls and tought about why an owner might want or need to build a special system into the buttresses along the wall. With help from the Head Gardener, Will Paice, they, with Geoffrey Pearce and Dave Kenny measured and counted, looked at the brickwork, did a bit of excavation and a lot of weeding and clearing and Les Gibson photographed what they found as they progressed. Finally Gill Clark wrote up their findings and sent them with photographs to the journals and newsletters of historic garden specialist groups for publication. She wrote:

in Victorian times, the wall had a 150 ft peach house on its inner side and 22 equally spaced buttresses outside, continuing the 220 ft length of the wall. Brickwork is of 19th century machine-made bricks. The buttresses may have been additions or have been altered; the lower parts are mortared, but not keyed into the wall. Through each buttress, offset to the left, runs a vertical pipe of glazed earthenware, topped by a circular terracotta 'chimney pot' that widens at its rim and tucks under the wall coping. Two-thirds down the left side of each buttress is an inlet/outlet tube that feeds into the pipe or is the outflow from it.

Accumulated soil was removed from the pipe to the level of the side arm and washed out from the top. The way further is blocked by brick rubble or this may be the bottom of the pipe. There is no evidence of a linkage between buttresses and no sign on the wall of fire as a source of heat. There is no ducting inside the wall. Neither is there visible pipe work or fixtures on the outside or inside of the wall.

What was the system for and how did it work over the entire length of the garden wall? It is a puzzle. All suggestions welcome!

Friends research - Timeline

Our local historian Dr Gill Clark (author of 'Down by the River') has compiled a timeline of all the stories that members of the Friends have discovered and researched since we published 'Caversham Court Gardens; A Heritage Guide'. The timeline has been lodged with the Berkshire Records Office and can be consulted there. If you have a particular interest in any aspect of the history of Caversham Court, the gardens and families who lived there, do get in touch with the Friends through We will be delighted to share our research and suggest further avenues to explore.

In the meantime, each month we will publicise a few things we discovered. In April we print details of the period between 1536 and 1555.


Owner of house - Christ Church, Oxford

Occupier - Lay person who was the impropriate rector

This period saw the dissolution of religious holdings including those of Notley Abbey. All these went to King Henry VIII to be used or redistributed. Notley holdings went to Cardinal Wolsey who at that time was still a royal favourite. Wolsey endowed Cardinal College at Oxford with his gift but when he fell out of favour King Henry took back Wolsey's endowment and renamed it King Henry VIII College. In due course, this became Christ Church College which was then responsible for the Notley holdings.

William Rolte

An agreement was made in December 1535 between the Canons of Notley Abbey and William Rolte, Sargeant at Arms to King Henry VIII that he should rent the Rectory for 66 years at £18 per annum. Then the same to Christopher Skevington for 50 years more. William Rolte, the last of the lesee farmers of the Rectory appeared in the court of augmentations on 23 January 1543 and produced the agreement made in 1535. He was to find a priest to serve the church but at no fixed sum. He was therefore free to pay the minimum wage due to a stipendiary curate. He had also in 1537/38 from King Henry VIII the manor of Chigwell in Eseex.

In 1544 King Henry VIII granted to Rolte and to John Brycket, Master of the King's kitchen, the office of Keeper of Caversham Park

The estate (the Residence of the Canon of Caversham) was sold in 1544 to Anthony Brigham, gentleman of the King's Household at the destruction of the Chapel of St Mary. The estate was a proper lodging with a 'fayer garden' and an orchard. Brigham had in 1546 licence to alienate it to Sir Francis Knollys.

Anthony Brigham was the leaseholder of the Rectory until1553. His will detailed the first bequest, a ring, to Richard Ward, then gold to value of 20 shillings to others. He nmed his brother Nicholas and leaves to his wife Margaret two meads, Frogmarsh and West Mede close to Caversham Bridge on the Berkshire side, also to her the wardship and marriage of William Milward; property in Reading and Caversham, and the lease on his parsonage of Caversham. He instructed Margaret to ensure all passed to Thomas Brigham, his son and heir at her death.

Anthony Brigham was succeeded as leaseholder by Christopher Skeffington in 1555.

This gives a flavour of the document which is included in its entirety below and can be accessed fully with a new tab.

Caversham Court time line February 2022

Cavershan Court time line 7 February 2022).pdf