Fri, 27 Apr 2018
NESTLED rather unexpectedly off Market Street, just a stone’s throw from West Berkshire Council’s offices, lies Newbury’s ‘well-kept secret’.
Those who know what it is – or have even acknowledged its existence – call it the town’s very own ‘echo circle’.
If you stand in the centre of the circle and speak out loud, your voice reverberates off the brick wall which surrounds the feature. The same is achieved if you clap.
The brick-walled feature isn’t unique to Newbury – there are others around the world which are acclaimed tourist attractions, most notably the Clapping Circle at Ilfracombe on the North Devon coast.
But for many, it remains a forgotten, disused site of interest which, following a £1m developer contribution to West Berkshire Council, will be rebuilt as part of the ‘urban village’ that is set to go ahead on Market Street.
Senior archaeologist of the public protection and culture department at West Berkshire Council Sarah Orr has recently created an entry for the feature on the Historic Environment Record (HER) record.
The HER documents archaeological and historical sites, monuments, buildings and structures in the district.
Ms Orr, who believes the echo circle was built in the 1980s, plans to index the new circle on the HER after it has been built.
Historian Phil Wood, president of the Newbury District and Field Society, believes the presentecho circle was incidentally put there by design.
Despite moving to Newbury in 1981, Mr Wood only learned about the circle five years ago, when he was introduced to it by a friend who called it a ‘magic circle’.
“As far as I can find, there is only one other in the UK – the Clapping Circle at Ilfracombe, which is lauded as a tourist attraction, whereas Newbury’s has been a well-kept secret,” said Mr Wood, who remarks that such circles are more common overseas and on several US university campuses.
The provision of a new circle has been included by Grainger, the Market Street developer.
It is something that has pleased Mr Wood, who attended a public consultation in which Grainger heard attendees’ concerns about the town’s flagship Market Street project.
“I wrote down the echo circle,” said Mr Wood.
“It was the last Post-it note to be read out and the Grainger staff didn’t have a clue about it – they rushed outside to see if it existed and of course, it did.”
The new echo circle will form the main northern entrance to the site from Market Street and it is hoped its regenerated, greener design will encourage people to walk and cycle through it, according to Grainger’s director of corporate affairs Kurt Mueller.
Mr Mueller said: “The feature will be surrounded by areas of shrubs and herbaceous planting and celebrated through an information plaque.
“The intention of the new echo circle is to draw people into the site and on to the ‘The Green’, a new landscaped area.”