FALLING PUPIL numbers have been blamed for the closure of Hemdean House School – founded to provide education for girls back in 1859.
Current headteacher Helen Chalmers and the school’s governing body said in a statement on the school’s website, “It is with a very heavy heart that I write to inform you that we will be closing the school on 12th July 2024”.
While arrangements are being made for pupils to move to other schools in the area in September, staff are determined that the remainder of the term will carry on as normal, and the usual summer events – den day, sports day, the music concert and prize giving – are going ahead as planned …Read more

In Tune and on Thyme

THIS MONTH we reflect on the closure of Hemdean House School, a local institution which has been part of the Caversham scene for 165 years. Our lead article in June 1985 centered on the school’s 125th anniversary (right). Our lead this month (above) is complemented by articles on the history of the school (p10) and from teachers, parents and past pupils (p11) …Read more

A Farewell to Keith Saynor

KEITH SAYNOR departed as pastor from Grace Church Caversham at the end of April, following five and a half years with us. A presentation and farewell lunch took place on Sunday 8 April, when we said a sad goodbye to Keith, Vinolia and Abigail. They are moving to Jubilee Church, Shepperton, where Keith will be pastor. Jubilee church, like Grace church, is part of the Commission sphere of the New Frontiers family of churches.
During his time with us Keith developed a missional strategy for building bridges between the church and the surrounding community in Caversham…Read more

For your bookshelf….

Welcome to ‘Fourbears Reviews’ where we briefly review a couple of titles chosen from our book shop ‘Fourbears Books’ in Caversham.

WE HAVE Henry Hemming coming to the shop in July to discuss his latest book ‘Four Shots in the Night’, so I thought I would include it here. A non-fiction narrative delving into the IRA, undercover British agents and more.
On 26 May 1986, the body of an undercover British agent was found by the side of a muddy lane. Years later, it was reported that this murder might have been carried out by another undercover British agent, known as ‘Stakeknife’ …Read more

Happy Wanderer seeks out WILD THYME

TYPICALLY IN this area you’ll find it growing on chalk grassland where soils are thin, where it flowers about now, and where it seems particularly fond of growing on ant-hills. You may well recognise it first when you tread on it and release its scent. The thyme you grow in your garden or buy in the supermarket is likely to be a different species, which is native in southern Europe, while native wild thyme is said to be equally good as a food flavouring but doesn’t taste as strong.
Geoffrey Grigson, in his ‘Englishman’s Flora’, tells us that the old name for it in Berkshire was ‘bank thyme’. The only different name recorded for it seems to be ‘tae grise’ in the Scottish Highlands – ‘tea grass’ because it was used to make tea…Read more


A pressing crowd

ON SATURDAY 20th April, Pop Classics Record shop in St Martin’s Precinct hosted their first ever Record Store Day,  an annual event staged by nearly 300 independent record shops around the UK.  Many exclusive limited edition vinyl records were released and sold exclusively for the event by artists such as Kate Bush, David Bowie, George Harrison and The Rolling Stones.  Excited music fans queued through the night
to get their hands on these treasures. The earliest arrived at 2:30. By opening time, the queue snaked around the block. The Vegivore Restaurant opposite the shop opened early to provide…..Read more


Going the extra Mile

JUST OVER a year ago, Clare and Jodie from NOOD Stores and the Caversham Artisan and Farmers Market came home to find their house on fire. We reported on the impact of the fire in our June 2023 edition, and the kindness of friends and neighbours in providing immediate support.  The damage to their home and the loss of their cat was compounded by a recently expired insurance policy. As Jodie later put it, “Our world was turned upside down.”….Read more


And the schools played their part….

LAST MONTH the Caversham Bridge reported on the Big Lent Walk, which was raising money for the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD). In addition to the parish walk which started from Our Lady and St Anne’s, two local primary schools took part, St Anne’s and St Martin’s.  The classes at St Anne’s school undertook their own walks during…..Read more


Colin Drummond Ferguson – A Celebration

A SERVICE OF thanksgiving celebrating the life of Colin was held at St Andrew’s United Reformed Church, Reading on April 26, 2024.  Colin was born to Robert and Mabel Ferguson in Perthshire. After a troubled beginning, the family settled in Richmond, London, and Colin attended Tiffin Grammar School, Kingston upon Thames. National Service with the Royal Air Force followed.  This was when at the suggestion of the RAF Padre and aged just 19, he first started preaching. The Padre said he had a ‘loud voice and a Bible’. He continued as a lay preacher well into his eighties, and had only recently retired.  After National Service, Colin worked for the Bank of England. In June 1960 he married Janet and they bought their first house in Battersea. In October 1964 he contracted TB, and nearly died. After a prolonged recovery, Colin felt he wanted to…..Read more


Building our community

Following our update last month about the Aviva scheme from TGI through to The Range, the Council has decided to challenge the decision by the Secretary of State, and we await a decision at the High Court. The development on the SSE site is due to start later this year with demolition expected imminently.  Historic England remains opposed to the plans at Caversham Park, despite the latest modifications
and the potential overspill parking on Peppard Road continues to……Read more


New Venue for Music series

The Concerts in Caversham series will be offering an opportunity to hear the Caversham Baptist Church’s recently acquired Boston grand piano with an evening concert on Friday 14 June. Cellist Naomi Watts will be accompanied by pianist Alison Rhind in a programme the pair have entitled Cello of the Heart……Read more


Creative Caversham

LONGTIME CAVERSHAM resident Richard Pilkington runs an established lutherie business, making, repairing and restoring all different types of guitar – as well as running workshops in which he teaches complete beginners to make their own guitars.  “Hopefully, my business is one that will be immune from the impact of AI!” he joked, as he took me on a tour of his fascinating workshop at Rotherfield Peppard, and
explained what it is a luthier (maker or repairer of string instruments) does.  “Many of the repair jobs I see are unique, and I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of these projects,” he said. “In some cases, there may not be a tool in existence which works for the repair you need, so first…..Read more


Hemdean House School – 1859-2024

WHEN FOUNDED as a girls’ school in 1859, it had a different name, Verona Lodge, and was situated in Church Street where the old telephone exchange is today. The owner, Francis Knighton, from Reading, had set up a boys’ school in the 1820s when he was just 23 – initially in Gun Street, Reading, then moving to Friar Street. By 1849 he had acquired a Georgian house where St Martin’s Precinct now stands, and his boys’ boarding school became known as Caversham House Academy. It was very much a family business; Francis Knighton’s
wife, three sons and three eldest daughters ran the academy together.  Having four daughters in all, Mr Knighton decided on a new venture. Verona Lodge was established as a school for girls, to be run by his daughter Rosa (already teaching at the Academy) and his youngest daughter, Matilda. The new school was an immediate success, so Mr Knighton bought agricultural land for £320 in Bottom Lane (now
Hemdean Road) and had a school built on a…..Read more



JUNE HAS TO be one of a gardener’s favourite months, with the sun shining and so many beautiful flowers at their best. This year I am growing a delphinium called ‘Laurin’. It is not one of the usual varieties that stand out in most gardens, but one of a delphinium species called
Delphinium nudicaule. I have managed to grow quite a few from seed. I took the advice on the packet and sowed the seed in a pot of compost, which I placed in the refrigerator for four weeks before bringing it out to stand on my kitchen windowsill.  It germinated quite well, and I have ten plants which I hope to see in flower this year. According to the catalogue, they will have compact free branches with glossy green foliage and….Read more


Theatre Group highlights History in the Making

LAST SUMMER, theatre fans were thrilled by Rabble Theatre’s history of medieval King Henry I – founder of Reading Abbey. Their play, which toured to both Winchester and London, received national accolades. Now the Caversham-based theatre company is creating a new drama which is examining events far closer to our present time – in fact, the inquiry uncovering facts contributing to the Post Office Horizon
scandal, which remains on-going.  Rabble Theatre was first approached by….Read more


Food for thought

JUNE IS THE month to explore the wilder side of Reading, to find out all you wanted to know about reducing energy use in the home or installing a heat pump, and to talk to university experts about their latest research on biodiversity and climate change issues.  It’s a full programme, from 7-21 June, starting with a weekend of Wild About Reading walks and a full range of energy experts at WaterFest in the
Forbury and Chestnut Walk on Saturday 8 June.  During the following two weeks, you can……Read more


Beanpoles, bird boxes and bees

CAVERSHAM COURT Gardens were buzzing on 20 April for the annual Beanpole Day. It was a cold but dry start for stall holders as they set up, but at least the wind, which was so much a feature of the weather in April, had dropped.  All the stalls were busy, from the Reading Food Growing Network seed exchange to the local honey producers and Caversham Fair Trade. The Ways and…..Read more
SOMETIMES, WHEN I am looking for something to watch on my computer, I come across videos of marching bands in the United States. They are great fun, with scores of brightly uniformed musicians parading around in different formations playing stirring music, with lovely girls waving flags, and a cheeky drum major throwing his baton way up into the air.  It does make me think back to when we had our own marching band in Caversham, called the Ambassadors – and they were good too! They were an….Read more


The Local Scene

I FEEL VERY grateful to Mr Kapoor and his wife and son who form the family team running the Post Office in Hemdean Road. If they had not agreed to add a post office counter to their corner shop, Caversham would be without this vital service in its centre. The previous post office, which used to be part of a chemist shop in Church Street, closed down, creating real concern for the public. The Kapoors had to…..Read more


Community Connections

IN HIS latest book Palatine: An Alternative History of the Caesars, Peter Stothard describes how Epictetus saw the world. The Roman slave turned philosopher said that everyone had their place and their part to play, like actors in a drama. This world view was reflected in the stratified society of postwar Britain in which Peter grew up and the housing estate of his childhood.  Peter’s father, a radar engineer for Marconi, lived on an estate in Essex owned by the company. “It might be one of the last examples of workers’ estates in the country”, Peter told me when we…..Read more


Getting lost and found in Caversham

I FEAR IT takes an unusual kind of skill to get lost in Caversham and yet somehow I managed it recently. It’s fair to say I already have something of a reputation in our household for issuing puzzling driving navigation instructions (Take the next left – no, wait, maybe you should have turned earlier). This time, in a fit of optimism, I decided to walk to Emmer Green by a different route. In theory, it seemed simple; walk up hill, turn left. In reality, the road curved into a different direction, and a rapidly dying phone had to be……Read more


The Property Market

WHEN I first moved to Caversham 24 years ago and coming from London, I had thought we would buy a period flat where conversions are the norm. I was surprised when house hunting in the area how few were available on the market, so we ended up buying a terraced house in the center of Caversham instead….Read more


Three Years On

I’VE BEEN writing for the Caversham Bridge for three years, so thought it would be good to introduce myself again, since I last did so back in 2021.  I live in Emmer Green with my husband, three teenage daughters (one now away at university), and our crazy cavapoo Molly. We’ve lived in RG4 since 1999, and love its sense of community.  When we moved here, I started work in Human Resources (HR) for a telecoms company in Maidenhead and stayed there until we started our family. During that time, I supported the business with recruitment, HR issues, and redundancies.  After a four-year career break, I returned to work part time, working from home in graduate recruitment, which
I continued with until 2018. During this time,….Read more


Spice – all things nice

SPICES ARE typically just dried herbs. Some are powdered, crushed, or ground, while others remain intact. But, because all spices start as herbs, many contain powerful antioxidants, which are bioactive compounds found in plants which do our body good.  Science shows the antioxidant properties found in herbs, fruits, and veggies help our bodies to fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. A buildup of free radicals not only makes us age faster, but also increases the risk factors for developing health conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and more. Spices can help our bodies to form a protective layer that may help defend against developing these….Read more