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Old Coley

 

'Out and About' covers a number of areas of interest around old Coley. Some still exist but others are long gone.

 

Out and About


St Saviours Church

St Saviours Church was originally situated off Coley Place near The Courts and only a short distance from Coley Primary School. When land became available after the departure of Coley Pottery, a new larger church was proposed.

Building began on the new church at the corner of Wolseley Street and Berkeley Avenue, Coley. On Tuesday June 14 1887, a stone was laid by John Fielder, the Lord Bishop of Oxford. The church was built on land previously used by Coley Pottery who produced pottery products from the local clay and chalk.

The church consists of an apsidal chancel, north vestry and organ chamber, south transept, nave, north and south aisles, and a western porch. The materials are red brick with stone dressings. The Church was originally a 'chapel of ease' to St. Mary's. Originally a fine large white wooden cross with Jesus, stood near the corner of Wolseley Street.


St. Saviours Church and Hall
Image ©Uli Harder 2006


 

58th Reading (St Mary's) Scout Group

This Scout group started in 1927 and is based at the St. Saviours Hall on Berkeley Avenue in Coley. Weekly meetings were held in the hall for both Scouts and the younger Cubs (and more recently the even younger Beavers). For some certain religious celebrations, a special Sunday service was held in the church with the Scouts and Cubs attending, with selected members as flag bearers.

In September 2003, the group was near to closing due to lack of support and unless a new team came forward the cubs could only continue meeting for another six weeks. Cub scout manager, Ralph Duncan, admitted at the time that the future didn't look promising. However, thanks to new support, the cubs and the younger beavers were able to continue.

 



Gascoignes (Reading) Limited


Gascoignes tinplate advertising sign - The Gascoigne Milker


Gascoignes (Reading) Ltd were established at Coley in 1927 by George H. Gascoigne, with premises in Berkeley Avenue, Reading, Berkshire. The company merged with Melotte, also a family firm that was established in 1852, in the 1970's to form Gascoigne-Melotte who specialise in milking machine design and development. The Berkeley Avenue site closing down soon after the merger.

Apparently, one of the features of the Gascoignes building was the front revolving door, which was popular with the children. Gascoignes was also remembered by many for the extravagant Christmas Parties that were held annually for the workers and their families.

Some of the workers at Gascoignes during the 1960's were:
Aubrey Cripps - Jim Butler - Douglas Owen - Ronald Griffiths - Donald Lake - Peggy Paris (Admin) - Arthur Paris ( Sales Rep) - Denis Perks (Travelling Sales Rep)

 



Coley Baths (Lido) - Mens Swimming Pool

During summer the nearest swimming pool was the open-air Coley Baths (men only) located behind Gascoignes on Berkeley Avenue. The pool was first opened in the 19th century (c1880) and was then known as the Corporation Baths or the Coley Lido (The word 'Lido' refers to a public outdoor swimming pool). It was the biggest pool in Reading at the time being some 200 feet (61 metres) in length. The Reading Swimming Club and Lifesaving Club was established in 1885 and had its headquarters at the open air Corporation Baths at Coley, before later moving to a newer pool at Kings Meadow opened in 1903.

It was only open during the warmer summer months and was very popular, with the entry fee being around sixpence in the 1960's. There was a small ticket office when you entered. I recall there was a time limit on your entrance fee.

The pool was surrounded by a green painted high fence and had no change rooms, just benches on each side. The pool was a good size and had a rigid diving board or two at the deep end. Even in summer the water was usually very cold and you generally didn't stay in the water too long.

This pool utilised the Holy Brook rivulet to provide the water. There were sluice gates at each end of the pool so that the pool could be flushed with clean water when required. The water flowed through from the deep end to the shallow (reverse direction of the river flow) as a safety measure. The bottom and some of the sides of the bath were sometimes covered with slimy river weed, but the water was generally clear.

The pool closed around 1974 and a new modern housing complex has since been built at the site.


Gerry Wood remembers his younger days spent down at the Coley Baths:

"My swimming years at Coley were something like 1940 to 1946, from age 8 to about 14 years old. I went to the Coley Swimming Baths (as we called it) perhaps twice a week on hot summer days. I lived at Staverton Road in Whitley, and we would walk to Coley along Elgar Road and head left across the bridges (Pell Street/Berkeley Ave) and then left again to follow the Holy Brook along its west bank. The waters from the Holy Brook flowed through the swimming pool. The waters were dark green and it had its share of marine growth, but we loved it.

The pool-side areas were very wide, especially on the east side, and were made of concrete. The single diving board was located at the deep (6ft ?) end. Coley was not an Olympic size like Kings Meadow. I don't know the measurements, but it was perhaps half the size of Kings Meadow.

Because it was males only, it was just the place for young teenagers to dry themselves off in the sun, sawing across their backs with a towel, anxious to let the younger kids see what a real man looked like. There was never any sexual harassment or anything like that as far as I know; it was just a lot of growing boys having fun for hours in the water."

Courtesy of Gerry Wood (June 2008)

 


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