Mon, 16 Nov 2020
Roy Young with some of his bottle collection
FARADAY Road runs off the A4 London Road down towards the canal, parallel to the A339. It incorporates the London Road Industrial Estate as well as the row of retail shops along the A4, garages, an old pumping station, the former Newbury Weekly News building and the old football ground. Many of the industrial units and businesses have been built in the last 40 years and prior to that, vast areas were open ground where a popular pastime was digging up old glass bottles and ceramic jars that had been dumped there in Victorian times.
And aerial view of Faraday Road area from the 1970s
Here follows a history of how the area developed from the 1880s to the 1970s and two avid bottle collectors – Chris Brownell and Roy Young – talk about their memories of digging in Faraday Road.
THE OS map of 1880-81 shows a cricket ground in the area where the former Newbury Weekly News building is now and a large area to the east of today’s Faraday Road is marked ‘liable to floods’.
In fact, the Berkshire National Mapping Programme recorded three areas of a water meadow system seen as earthworks. Each system seems to be distinct and might have different origins, although they are all geographically close, in an area to the north and south of the river and canal.
The northernmost system, which lay between the London Road and Greenham Lock, includes a sluice and some channels, which were also mapped. Similarly, the second system, south of the Kennet and Avon Canal covers a mapped area of channels diverted from the river. Finally, the southernmost system is within a small rectangle of land lying between the river and the Great Western Railway, in Greenham parish.
It is possible that all of the earthworks were for drainage rather than water meadow use.
A farm is marked to the east of the cricket ground and there are some nursery gardens to the north east where the end of Faraday Road comes out into London Road. By 1899, the farm is named Cooke’s Farm and the nursery gardens have gone. A sewage pumping station has been built, probably around 1895, in a meadow north of the farm.
It includes a residential part and a landmark tower over the pump house (above), which can still be seen today.
Watercress beds to the north of the cricket ground have been labelled, as have several areas of allotments. By 1911 the cricket ground has a pavilion and Cooke’s Farm has been renamed Greenham Dairy Farm.
The OS map of 1933-34 shows that the areas of allotments have been extended and the watercress beds appear to have returned to marshland. The cricket ground has been relabelled as a general sports ground and the area previously ‘liable to floods’ isn’t labelled that way anymore.
According to the Heritage Gateway site, land to the east of Newbury’s Victoria Park appears to have been used for recreational purposes since at least the late 19th century. A cricket ground with seats, perhaps for spectators, is marked on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map and a pavilion was also sited round the ground in at least two locations in the early 20th century.
By 1933-4 other buildings had appeared around the sports ground. The straight southern boundary appears to be a drain into the River Kennet.
By 1967 a large football ground had been erected, with Greenham Dairy Farm to the east of the ground, but other adjacent land was undeveloped.
An OS map of 1967 shows that the sports ground has been extended and has new stands. An abattoir has been built between the dairy farm and the sewage pumping station and an engineering works has been built where the allotments and watercress beds were.
From the 1970s to the end of the 20th century several planning applications were granted for extensions and alterations to Newbury Town Football Club and the ground was rebuilt again further to the south. Associated with this change was the extension of the industrial estate to the north, along Faraday Road. The football ground was nominated as an asset of community value in 2016.
By 1999, according to aerial photographs taken for the council, the industrial estate was fully formed and the football ground appears to have moved south a bit. The dairy and the abattoir seem to have been demolished too.
Fifty-seven-year-old Chris Brownell has lived in Thatcham all his life. In the early 1970s, aged eight, a friend at Winchcombe School suggested they take “a spade and shovel and get digging”.
“We had heard that the area that is now Faraday Road used to be Victorian landfill and if we found old bottles buried there then we could earn 10p a find from a collector from Reading. We had a great time – digging quite deep sometimes, up to six foot – there were loads of us and we thought we were rich. Extra pocket money for sweets.”
Mr Brownell went to Turnpike School and what had started as a bit of fun with his mates turned into more of a hobby. He carried on digging looking for old memorabilia until in 1979 he left school aged 16 and went straight into work.
“The digging stopped, but I was always interested in local history.” Mr Brownell says he found a lot of bottles under where the allotments are now and near the old abattoir, as well as Hambridge Road.
“Some of the bottles date from around 1865 to 1880 – up to 1910, when many local companies, such as ICE Berg from Bradfield, stopped trading.”
In 1979, Mr Brownell and his friend Lachlan Deas put together a display of some of his collection which was featured in the NWN and shown at the museum.
Mr Brownell still has about 500 bottles in his collection – from medicine jars to beer bottles. He looks out for old local memorabilia and one particularly treasured item is a ceramic hot water bottle from Davies China shop.
Roy Young had developed a keen interest in history and collecting old bottles and artefacts from local areas around Langley, where he grew up and on his holidays in Ireland at the Killarney Lakes. He moved to Thatcham in the 1970s and says “someone asked me if I knew about the old Victorian dump in Newbury on the London Road, just by the Robin Hood”.
He immediately went to look and explains: “I started to dig there and it was amazing. I spent many a happy hour treasure hunting, unearthing bottles and pot lids. “Together, over the period of a few years, I visited other locations, along with my mate Brian Cattle. We went to Reading, Southall, Henley and Aldershot and we built up quite a collection between us.”
Mr Young started to research into how rubbish came to be disposed of in late Victorian times and discovered that most households buried it in their gardens and recycled nearly everything, from newspapers to rags. Little food was wasted as leftovers were made into stews and pies and the little scraps left were fed to animals and pets.
However, in the main towns where houses, shops, pubs and eating places had no gardens, horses and carts would collect the rubbish for a fee and then dispose of it away from the town.
“This is most certainly how the Faraday Road area south of the London Road became a dumping site for Newbury. Looking at old Victorian maps of the area recently, I discovered that this piece of land between the A4 and River Kennet was marshland and over a period of time between 1890 and the early 1900s became a landfill site. The depth of the rubbish was around three to four feet with the Victorian bottles and pot lids found at the bottom, as these were buried first. The Edwardian rubbish was on the top under the topsoil surface.
“Bottles could easily be dated by moulding marks and the colour of the glass. There were many Codd bottles. These were the ones with the marbles in, the gassy mineral water forcing the marble up to the rubber ring in the neck to seal it.”
Mr Young explained that it is thought that the word ‘Codswallop’ was perhaps named after Hiram Codd, who invented this type of bottle for fizzy drinks in 1875.
“So many items were found in the dump, mostly from Newbury and the surrounding areas. There were transfer printed earthenware ginger beer bottles, blacking pots, glass beer and mineral water bottles, inks, sauce bottles, foot warmers and many clay pipes. The greatest prizes of all, though, were the pot lids, transfer printed with fancy designs advertising the contents of the actual pots, mostly cold cream, toothpaste and potted meats, but there were a few rare and valuable examples such as bear’s grease – for the hair – and even moustache wax.”
Faraday Road may now be built on and its future is still being decided, but the hidden treasures it threw up for these collectors will never be forgotten.
West Berkshire Council assistant archaeologist Beth Asbury adds: “We would like members of the public to let us know about any archaeological finds made in West Berkshire or via our online form: https://citizen.westberks.gov.uk/article/37148/ Report-Heritage-Information-or-Issues and to bear in mind the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme
“Berkshire’s finds liaison officer holds regular finds surgeries at West Berkshire Museum
“It’s also important to have permission from the landowner before digging or metal detecting anywhere, not to mention the health and safety aspect of digging holes.” Visit code of practice
Defra provides a page on its website, which shows areas where there was landfill. Faraday Road shows a clear area next to the football ground and by London Road.