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Saturday Study Tours

15 June: 09:00/10:15 start; end 12:00-17:30 (depending on selection)

Please see individual tours for start and finish venues.

Please note the following:

  • All times are approximate but start times cannot be delayed for late arrivals
  • Most tours involve substantial walking: please bring sturdy shoes and wet weather gear
  • All tours necessarily are subject to change.
  • Those joining later or shorter tours , and with time to spare, are strongly encouraged to explore the rich heritage of Reading and its environs, informed by references and resources including those on our website
  • Accessibility: Tours beyond the urban areas can involve uneven ground and/or steps. Bus and public transport tours are not generally accessible for wheelchairs but wheelchair users will be welcome to join by car - please check each venue for accessibility.

The Vyne: A case study in management and care of iconic and historic National Trust estate and its more recent challenges.

Depart: 08.:45 (09:30 at The Vyne)
Return: 17:30 (16:45 from the Vyne)

This full-day tour offers rare and substantial insights into one of the National Trust’s most interesting and multifaceted estates, ‘a former Tudor powerhouse turned 17th-century family home, set in registered gardens, woodlands and wetlands’, and its dynamic responses to major demands, from the pandemic to the interaction of ecosystems and crisis management of the historic environment.

The estate itself combines hugely significant cultural and natural resources with complex project challenges, and equally challenged budgets, across built and biological environments and heritage. These include supporting the historic house itself – which delegates can explore through self-guided tours (purchasing a guide book to help as needed!) – and its collections, as well as the wider estate buildings and immediate gardens, the allotments and relationship with the village beyond. All aspects of the operations faced the financial impacts of the pandemic, including the downturn in visitor numbers.

More exceptional aspects for CPD are the unique, nuanced and very enlightening interactions made between project development in response to natural disasters and the challenges of working across multiple regulatory bodies. These include the familiar – such as Historic England and planning authorities - but also those encountered less often, notably the Environment Agency (EA). The EA, an executive non-departmental public body that works ‘to create better places for people and wildlife, and support sustainable development’, was the key regulatory authority in negotiations around the response to failures in the historic reservoir's contribution to the sensitive natural wetlands.

The IHBC is particularly grateful the National Trust for its exceptional support in organising this unique CPD and learning event,

IHBC School Committee lead and event contributor: Maria Morris

Mapledurham estate and Owlsworth workshop: : A case study in management & care of an iconic and historic private estate

Depart: 09:00 (for 09:30 arrival at Mapledurham)
Return: 16:00 (15:30 from Mapledurham)

This tour offers a rare opportunity to look around the private estate of Mapledurham, a unique survival of a Thameside working estate on the outskirts of Reading, to see how the determined owner has managed to keep the estate together and viable and to retain its unspoilt character. New uses for redundant buildings have an integrated heritage-sustainabilty emphasis.

The tour includes a visit the workshops of Owlsworth IJP to see work in progress on some high-quality timber repairs and new work; to see the whole process from timber selection, preparation and working. Adjacent to the workshops is a superb example of an unaltered medieval peasant’s house, a hall house with original louvre still in place. Here is the Oxford Dendrochronolgy Laboratory which is housed in an extraordinary underground extension to this house. The whole dendro process is explained in this lab with samples available to view. The lab has dated all the early buildings on the estate.

Farm building conversions are characterised by low key alterations and discreet signage so the agricultural character is retained. One of the most interesting conversions is that to a research laboratory working on an entirely sustainable water supply and drainage system which could serve individual houses, i.e. needing no infrastructure network. This will be open for delegates to see how this works.

The tour will include the small, completely unspoilt village of Mapledurham where there are fine examples of building conservation including Mapledurham House (interior not part of the tour) almshouses, The Old Manor house and the church with the recently restored Bardolf Aisle, accessed only from the outside and the working mill with its Archimedes Screw generating electricity for the village.

Huge thanks to Dr Dan Miles for making both his house and lab available; to Owlsworth IJP for opening their workshop; to Peter Kaye for opening his research lab for us and to Ali Eyston for permitting access to the Bardolf Aisle and the mill.

IHBC School Committee lead and event contributor: Kathy Davies

Depart: 09:15
Return: 11:45

The biographer of Alfred Waterhouse (1830–1905), Colin Cunningham, argued that between about 1865 and about 1885 Waterhouse was ‘the most widely employed British architect’. Today he is probably still best known for his spectacular Manchester Town Hall.

Victorian Reading, spurred by its rapid economic growth and, as ever, its proximity to London, boasts both an excellent and diverse collection of the work of this Victorian figurehead architect.

Tour lead: Stephen Gage

Depart: 09:30 (from Ibis for 10:00 arrival outside MERL)
Return: 12:30 at Ibis (12:00 from MERL)

The Museum of English Rural Life explores the history of the English countryside and its people’ while also maintaining remarkable and diverse collection of both the expected – with galleries, library and collections of paper, material, tools and vehicles, including the Landscape Institute and linked resources for example – and the less so: as it holds substantial papers archives from James Joyce and Samuel Beckett! While these last are less a focus of the visit, they do reflect the huge depth of culture and history across Reading’s rich, often unanticipated and always underestimated heritage resources.

The MERL is a part of the University of Reading and work with Reading Museum as the Arts Council England-funded Museums Partnership Reading.

Tours will focus on the building’s history, old and new roles, and its collections, taking us from the original house by Alfred Waterhouse (explored separately in our School Tours) to the modern re-development and extension – the museum proper –by Niall Phillips Architects, 2003-6, described in Pevsner as a ‘long e-w range of two storeys, with a complex cross-section allowing clerestory lighting to both sides of the display hall and on the garden side a projection with shallow barrel-vaulted roofs for smaller displays.’

Tour lead: MERL staff

Depart: 09:45
Return: 12:45

A bespoke tour of the impressive Reading Abbey Quarter including its varied environs with leading conservation architect Barnaby Wheeler, who worked on the conservation of the Abbey, and looking especially at the evolution, growth, changes and conservation in this historic central area.

Tour lead: Barnaby Wheeler, Principal Architect, Heritage Architecture

Depart: 13:45
Return: 16:00

Heritage Actions Zones (with High Streets Heritage Action Zones, or HSHAZ) have been the hallmark of Historic England’s efforts to tie heritage policy more tightly to financial investment, so as ‘to boost economic growth using the historic environment as a catalyst.’

The case for funding Reading’s HAZ focussed on both making the investment and social issues in its case for investment under the HAZ programme. It specified both ’the urgent need to dust off and re-use the historic buildings…to help breathe new life into this part of Reading’ and the extent of economic and social inequity at local and national levels, being at once ‘deprived and the third most unequal city in the country’.

The depth of Reading’s heritage resource was no less important. The case for the Reading HAZ states that: ‘Although often thought of as a very modern town centre, Reading has an incredible depth of history and is home to some wonderful architecture. The High Street Heritage Action Zone includes the cross roads that mark the town's earliest streets (around the churchyard of Reading Minster), the market place outside the gates of its Royal Abbey, and the Oxford Road.’

Tour led by Christelle Beaupoux, Culture and Heritage Projects Manager at Reading Borough Council, or an alternate.

Reception Sponsor

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