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Press Releases

23 August 2005

Free to explore – Sonning throws open its Victorian doors for Heritage Open Days

Sonning will be opening various Victorian doors to show off its hidden architectural treasures to residents and visitors free of charge on Sunday 11 September 2005. Organised by the Sonning & Sonning Eye Society, the activities and openings of “Henry Woodyer in Sonning” form part of Heritage Open Days, a national event co-ordinated by the Civic Trust and funded by English Heritage.

Buildings built or substantially re-furbished by Victorian architect, Henry Woodyer, which will be open to the public, include the Reading Blue Coat School (formerly Holme Park), North Lodge, the picturesque village entrance to Holme Park, and the old boys’ school in Thames Street. All these will be in addition to St Andrew’s Church, where visitors will be treated to tower visits and tours especially arranged for the event. Pearson Hall, also Victorian, an unlisted and interesting village hall but not by Woodyer, will contain the main part of an exhibition of photographs which will put Woodyer in context.

Chris Clarke, Chairman of the Sonning & Sonning Eye Society said: “We are very proud of our village, which has so many good quality buildings, not least those built, restored or refurbished by Henry Woodyer. Enthusiasm for this Heritage Open Day has unearthed some hitherto unknown original drawings by the Victorian architect as well as old photographs showing us how the buildings first looked before refurbishment in the last century. I’d like to thank everyone involved for making this event possible, especially the generous time and effort provided by Society members and other volunteers.”

Heritage Open Days activities will take place all over England from 8-11 September 2005 as part of the European Heritage Days initiative. Over 800,000 visitors up and down the country will enjoy the four-day event, exploring an outstanding selection of private homes, castles, factories, churches, mosques and temples, historic gardens and parks as well as contemporary design classics.

Nigel Burton, Chairman of the Civic Trust, said: “Heritage Open Days is about people and places. It is a celebration of our communities and the importance of the built environment to our lives. Local people dedicate their spare time to opening properties and organising activities: it is their knowledge and enthusiasm that makes Heritage Open Days happen.”

Full details of Heritage Open Days activities are available from Tourist Information Centres and the Civic Trust website www.heritageopendays.org

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NOTES FOR EDITORS:

The following SONNING buildings will be open from 12 noon – 5.00 pm and entrance will be free:
  • St Andrew's Church: Tower open 2.00 – 4.00 pm - Special tours available at 1.30 pm, 2.30 pm and 3.30 pm.
  • Reading Blue Coat School, Sonning Lane: Exterior and three interior rooms - Special tours available at 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm
  • North Lodge, Sonning Lane: Exterior only
  • Masters, Thames Street: Exterior only
  • Exhibition, Pearson Hall, Pearson Road (also in St Andrew’s and Blue Coat School): Complementary exhibition of photographs puts Woodyer in context and relates his work at Sonning to his other significant buildings locally (e.g. Christchurch in Reading, St Paul’s in Wokingham, St John the Evangelist in Woodley) - Refreshments from 2.00 – 5.00 pm
    Photographs will be available at any location during the event by arrangement with the Co-ordinator.

HENRY WOODYER, 1816-1896, worked extensively in Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire. He is mostly known for church restorations and building schools and vicarages. He is also associated with Houses of Mercy, institutions for fallen women, several of which can be found in and near Windsor (Robert Palmer of Holme Park was a member of the Council at Clewer). Sonning offers a variety of buildings demonstrating Woodyer’s highly individual style, including more unusually a mansion, a building type with which he was little associated.

The event is being organised by the SONNING AND SONNING EYE SOCIETY, which is celebrating its first birthday in September. Founded in 2004, the Society is committed to promoting high standards of planning and architecture; disseminating information about its geography, history, natural history and architectural heritage; and preserving, protecting, developing and improving features of historic, natural and public interest. Now affiliated to The Civic Trust, which co-ordinates the Heritage Open Days together with English Heritage, the Society definitely sees the event as a way of putting Sonning on the map as a village with significant and substantial buildings of all periods. It so happens that its significant Victorian buildings are the responsibility of Henry Woodyer.

THE CIVIC TRUST works with people to promote thriving towns and villages, developing dynamic partnerships between communities, government and business to deliver regeneration and local improvement. It is Britain’s leading charity devoted to enhancing the quality of life in Britain’s cities, towns and villages: the places where people live, work, shop and relax. www.civictrust.org.uk

ENGLISH HERITAGE (formally the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England) exists to secure the preservation of ancient monuments and historic buildings; to promote the preservation and enhancement of conservation areas; and to promote the public’s enjoyment of ancient monuments and historic buildings. It is the Secretary of State’s statutory adviser on listing and heritage matters, manages over 400 historic properties and disburses some 40 million pounds a year in conservation and archaeology grants. It is also responsible for the National Monuments Record and Survey of London. www.english-heritage.org.uk

THE HERITAGE LOTTERY FUND, which funds the Heritage Open Days Audience Development Programme, enables communities to celebrate, look after and learn more about our diverse heritage.

FOR FURTHER DETAILS please contact: Diana Coulter, Co-ordinator, on 07973 747 786 or diana.coulter@orange.net.

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4th October 2004

Sonning and Sonning Eye Society

After a highly successful launch of The Sonning and Sonning Eye Society at the Mill at Sonning theatre on 12 th September 2004, the first of a programme of walks and talks focusing on aspects of the two villages takes place on Sunday 17th October 2004:

‘Bricks and Bats’ focuses on Sonning village and is a ticketed event. The walk will look at wildlife habitats and human habitations around the heart of Sonning, with Alastair Driver focusing on interesting wildlife, living in the centre of the village, from bats to insects. Brian O’Callaghan and Diana Coulter will focus on key buildings, their materials builders and design and will include the work of Victorian architect and restorer Henry Woodyer. Tickets are limited for this walk and are priced as follows Society members £1, Non members £3

Future events organised by the society:

Annual general meeting and supper (members only)
On 27th November 2004

Talk on Henry Woodyer architect and restorer of several buildings in Sonning
By Dr. John Elliott from University of Reading
On Friday 28th January 2005

'Words on Eye’ an exploration of Sonning Eye and its surroundings
On Saturday 30th April 2005

 

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NOTES FOR EDITORS:

To obtain tickets for future events, or for further information including membership details please contact:

Diana Coulter 969 2132
Clare Grove 969 9383
Tony Sewell 969 1390

For Media enquiries please contact:
Diana Coulter (01483 689744 daytime or diana.coulter@orange.net), or Clare Grove (07973 918225 or chatfield@btconnect .com), or the Honorary Secretary, (Sally Hughes 0118 9697082 or sally@maddalys.fsnet.co.uk).

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14 September 2004

MP Supports New Local Society

During Heritage Weekend Maidenhead MP, Theresa May, warmly supported the new Sonning and Sonning Eye Society saying, "I strongly support the aims and objectives of the Society and look forward to working with it in the future." Councillor Malcolm Bryant, Chairman of Wokingham District Council, was among over 100 enthusiastic people who attended the Inaugural Event of the Sonning and Sonning Eye Society at The Mill Theatre on Sunday 12th September. Sonning Councillor, David Ashman, was also one of the guests who included representatives from Thames Valley Park, The Henley Society, Reading Civic Society and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. Over 150 members signed up during heritage weekend to launch the new Society. The membership already represents more than 10% of those listed on the electoral roll and is continuing to grow. Why? Because the aim of the Society is to preserve and enhance the character, appearance and environment of the villages of Sonning and Sonning Eye.

The Society intends to achieve its aim through three activities. It wants to promote high standards of planning and architecture, and a group drawn from the membership will comment on applications and planning proposals. The Society also plans to disseminate information about the geography, history, natural history and architectural heritage of both villages through a series of walks and talks. Finally the Society will seek to preserve, protect, develop and improve features of historic, natural and public interest, working alongside the two Parish Councils.

On Sunday a lecture by garden design historian, Jane Balfour, on garden treasures created by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens, launched the education programme. Her talk appealed to a wide variety of interests from plants and planting schemes to buildings and geology. Walks have been designed to increase awareness of the environment and the buildings situated within it, and start with "Bricks and Bats" on Sunday 17th October at 2:30 p.m. The talks include "Henry Woodyer – Gentleman Architect" to celebrate the Victorian architect’s contribution to the villages, which will take place in January in the Blue Coat School, itself a Georgian house re-modelled by this notable architect.

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NOTES FOR EDITORS:

  • "Deanery Garden" in Thames Street, Sonning, was designed in 1901 by Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) for Edward Hudson owner of Country Life magazine. The house belongs to Lutyens’ early mature Arts and Crafts style. In later life he went on to design various buildings in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London, the government buildings in New Delhi, the Cenotaph in Whitehall and distinctive monuments for the British War Graves Commission in France and Belgium.
  • Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), garden designer, gave Lutyens his major break when he built her house at Munstead Wood, Godalming, Surrey. Jekyll designed the garden at "Deanery Garden" and also worked with Lutyens on Folly Farm (1906-1912) at Sulhamstead, Reading. Jekyll’s garden designs have done much to influence modern gardening by emphasising colour and foliage in natural settings. Both Jekyll and Lutyens were the focus of a programme in the BBC2 series Art of the Garden screened in June 2004.
  • The majority of Surrey-born Henry Woodyer’s work (1816-1896) can been seen in the Home Counties, with interesting examples further afield, particularly at Highnam in Gloucestershire. He restored St Andrew’s in Sonning in 1852-53 and re-modelled Holme Park (Reading Blue Coat School) in 1881-82, building North Lodge at the village entrance into the Park. He also remodelled the old vicarage and built the School in Thames Street (1859) now converted into two homes. He was the subject of a major study by University of Reading adult education students published in 2002.

For media enquiries please contact the Diana Coulter (01483 689744 daytime or diana.coulter@orange.net), or the Honorary Secretary, Sally Hughes (0118 969 7082 or sally@maddalys.fsnet.co.uk).

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23 August 2004

New Society Uses Heritage Weekend to Focus on Outstanding Interest of Sonning & Sonning Eye

The Sonning and Sonning Eye Society will be launched at The Mill Theatre in Sonning Eye on Sunday 12th September 2004 at 7.30 p.m. The Special Inaugural Evening, timed to coincide with Heritage Open Day Weekend, 10th-13th September 2004, includes a lecture by garden design historian, Jane Balfour, on garden treasures created by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens. This is the prelude to a programme of walks and talks focusing on aspects of the two villages and covering topics as diverse as bio-diversity; the life and work of William Holman Hunt; and the recently completed Sonning Parish Design Statement.

The Society will appeal to those who want to see the natural environment where they live protected. It has been set up by residents concerned about both the effects of traffic and the future of excellent buildings. They would like to influence decision-making about planning and want to see older buildings preserved alongside the development of sensitive new building schemes. The Society will also attract people keen to discover more about local geography, history, natural history and architecture.

Both Sonning and Sonning Eye are distinguished by several architecturally important buildings, not least the very well-used 18th-century brick bridge. There is one outstanding Grade 1 listed building, “Deanery Garden” designed in 1901 by Edwin Lutyens, as well as several other listed buildings including the 15th-century “Bull Inn” and “The Grove” built in the 18th century, which has been ranked, architecturally, alongside London equivalents. Victorian architect, Henry Woodyer, who was patronised by Robert Palmer, Reading MP 1825-1859, and Hugh Pearson, vicar 1842-1882, left his mark on what is now the Reading Blue Coat School and restored the medieval St Andrew’s Church. With this wealth of buildings and their equally interesting natural surroundings, it is perhaps surprising that the villages have not set up a society like this before.

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NOTES FOR EDITORS:

  • “Deanery Garden” was designed in 1901 by Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) for Edward Hudson owner of Country Life magazine. The house belongs to Lutyens’ early mature Arts and Crafts style. In later life he went on to design various buildings in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London, the government buildings in New Delhi, the Cenotaph in Whitehall and distinctive monuments for the British War Graves Commission in France and Belgium.
  • Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), garden designer, gave Lutyens his major break when he built her house at Munstead Wood, Godalming, Surrey. Jekyll designed the garden at “Deanery Garden” and also worked with Lutyens on Folly Farm (1906-1912) at Sulhamstead, Reading. Jekyll’s garden designs have done much to influence modern gardening by emphasising colour and foliage in natural settings. Both Jekyll and Lutyens were the focus of a programme in the BBC2 series Art of the Garden screened in June 2004.
  • The majority of Surrey-born Henry Woodyer’s work (1816-1896) can been seen in the Home Counties, with interesting examples further afield, particularly at Highnam in Gloucestershire. He restored St Andrew’s in Sonning in 1852-53 and re-modelled Holme Park (Reading Blue Coat School) in 1881-82, building North Lodge at the village entrance into the Park. He also remodelled the old vicarage and built the School in Thames Street (1859) now converted into two homes. He was the subject of a major study by University of Reading adult education students, published in 2002.
  • William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), a co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, lived at “The Acre” in Sonning built for him at the turn of the 20th century. Here he painted his most famous work, Light of the World, which can be seen at Keble College Oxford.

For media enquiries please contact the Chairman, Canon Christopher Clarke (0118 969 3298 or chris@cgclarke.fsnet.co.uk), or the Honorary Secretary, Sally Hughes (0118 969 7082 or sally@maddalys.fsnet.co.uk).

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