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Weekly Photo Challenge … Neighbourhood

March 12, 2013

I live in Reading, Berkshire 25 miles west of London; once renown for bricks, beer, biscuits and bulbs. The houses in my neighbourhood were built from local bricks for the workers, in the kilns, Courage brewery, Sutton Seeds, and the world famous Huntley and Palmer Biscuit factory over 125 years ago.  The rows of tiny two up and two down houses,  without bathrooms, were family homes. The children went to the local school and the little row of shops offered all the needs for the community. The Huntley and Palmer family were Quakers so while they built many houses and other public facilities there were not many public houses  provided.  There is a very lovely park and library that offers a pleasant alternative. There was a local public baths and hospital nearby.  The tram station at the end of our street provided transport into the town centre on market day day and for luxury items at Heelas the department store now John Lewis. These once thriving industries that provided work for the local community for decades have all closed down or relocated.

The little houses have now become part of the unseen economy and items of investment; stepping stones for those who want to become part of the property market. So the streets became gentrified with inside toilets and bathrooms, either tacked on the back or replaced a bedroom. Now homes for workers in the growing silicon valley that stretches beside Thames only a stones through away.  The key workers at the local hospital and university will also will never move far away.  Because of of the town’s proximity to London, Reading will always be a dormitory for the City workers.  Also during a recent economic boom many people were able to mortgage a second house.  Many of the homes have reverted back to being rented and a place for students at the university and technical college.  The local shops now have become mini supermarkets;  so the independent butchers, bakers and fishmonger have long since closed down to be replaced with a takeaway or a cafe that feeds the changing and wandering community.
Even with the general dishevelment caused by the students and their landlords who don’t have the local community spirit, the mishmash of home improvements, UPVC doors and windows  and the  rows of over full wheelies bins, I would not change a thing … with the natural disorder comes the beauty.

Also the inhabitants themselves have changed over the 30 years I have been living here,with  the natural growing old and death  and of course the up-and- coming  usually get up and go. So those remaining as before find employment and a home for a while. Making use of the last remains of a community that began around 1888 with Mr Palmer and his philanthropic colleagues



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