Further History

A Very Odd Wall

A wall in the Gardens has features which puzzle everyone, 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 in The Warren between the churchyard path and the Canoe Club gate. It is not a heated wall that might be expected in a kitchen garden. Susan's comment sent a group of 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 thought 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 signs 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 this system for and how did it work over the entire length of the garden wall? It is a puzzle. All suggestions welcome!

John Loveday of Caversham

This paper (see link) was published in the Berkshire Family Historian, the Journal of the Berkshire Family History Society Volume 41, September 2017. It remains copyright of the Society and thanks are given to the editor for the permission to reproduce it. In the paper, Dr Gillian Clark takes a look at the notable Caversham resident John Loveday.