Newbury Town Council

FINAL VERSION - 18.07.2008

CONTENTS: Location and Map ......................................... Setting and Landscape .................................... Development of Donnington Square .................... Historical Background .................................... Historic Maps: 1780 Map showing Clay Pit Field ...... 1880 and 1900 Maps ................... 1911 and 1935 Maps ...................

Page 2 2 3 4

7 8 9

Common Features of the Victorian Houses


11 17 33 35 36 39 42

Description of the Houses .................................. The Back Lane ............................................... Miller's Nursery ............................................. Houses in the Inner Section ............................... Appendix 1 - Historical Notes .............................. Appendix 2 - Olney Lodge .............................. Appendix 3 W F Poulton's watercolour plan for Donnington Sq


Appendix 4 - 1880 Census - extracts with information about households in Donnington Square. Can only be seen in the West Berkshire Council Museum, attached to their special copy of this Report.



THE LOCATION Donnington Square is a crescent of predominantly Victorian houses, influenced by neo-Classical and Italianate architecture, which was popular in the mid 1800s. The location is off the west side of the Oxford Road, which is a main gateway approach road into Newbury from the north. The square is on flat ground on a plateau north of the slopes of the Kennet River valley and is within a short walk of the town centre.

THE SETTING AND LANDSCAPE The height of buildings, mainly three or more stories, large back gardens and mature tree cover offset the Square from both the Oxford Road and more modern housing immediately to the west and south. Another group of Victorian semi-detached houses, Donnington Villas, reflect the same imposing size, but have `Gothic Revival' architectural features, similar to the old St Mary's Vicarage (now flats) opposite Donnington Square. The large development of flats and houses opposite Donnington Villas (College Mews) was completed in 2000, and its height and style sympathetically echo a modern interpretation of both the neo-Classical and Gothic Revival. It is built on the former site of Newbury College and is enhanced by many mature trees which were protected by Tree Preservation Orders at the time of the demolition of the College. In Donnington Square itself, tree cover is quite dense, especially around the inner section. The area is flat with no undulations in any part of the Square. 2

Front gardens are large by modern standards and enclosed, the only public open space being a grass verge around the area of the curve of the inner section, this being about twelve feet wide. Back gardens are much larger and well established, again contributing to the tree cover of the whole neighbourhood. The houses are mostly set back at an equal distance from the road and originally the front gardens of the outer perimeter were enclosed by low red brick walls, surmounted by wrought iron railings. Of the latter, only those at No 17 survived the compulsory collection of iron during WWII. A leafy rear access lane runs right around the back of the Square and the many of the original stables built there in the 19th century have now been replaced by garages. There were also cottages off the lane, which were replaced by bungalows in the middle of the 20th century. THE DEVELOPMENT OF DONNINGTON SQUARE

Donnington Square was developed in the second half of the 19th century as a crescent of imposing, three-storey town houses with basements, making them in effect four-floor. They were set along a neat building line, around a central open area, rather like a London square. Houses were built in red brick (most now rendered in pastel colours at the front) with stone lintels and many embellishments, such as corner quoins, decorative porches, corner towers, etc. Roof tiles are of grey slate. Overall the street scene is varied and the styles eclectic, giving the Square a unique character and charm. Building was gradual - one empty plot still existed up to the 1950s. Development of the inner section did not start until the beginning of the 20th century. According to Nicolaus Pesvner in ("Buildings of Berkshire" 1966) - It is not a square, but a crescent, and it must initially date from about 1840. Semi-detached houses, some under one gable, one with two gables, also one with two towers of the Italian villa style and another with two towers and Jacobean trim. Interrupting this chronological, if not visual, unit is OLNEY LODGE, by W. Hunt, the design for it shown at the Royal Academy in 1901. Red brick and tile-hanging, Tudor, but with a low, rather Baroque angle tower and Art Nouveau lettering, quite resourceful. 3

Donnington Square became a Conservation Area in 1971 due to its outstanding character, which epitomises the bold style of Victorian house builders and their love of decoration. It presents a stunning street scene due to the variety of finishes and decorative features. The development appealed to the emerging Victorian middle classes, who desired gracious `country living', with genteel neighbours near to the amenities of a town. All the houses were built with basements, where housekeeping chores were done by servants, well out of sight of the reception rooms. The back access road or lane provided separate access to the stabling and for tradesmen. Many of the houses have been extended over the years and several have been divided into flats, but in general these alterations have blended in well with the original style. Donnington Square retains a unique character and is still much appreciated by local residents.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND The land on which Donnington Square is built was formerly part of common land known as Claypit Field in the tithing of Woodspeen. It was enclosed by an Act of Parliament in 1779. Claypit field was situated on land between the Old Bath Road, Donnington village and Speenhamland, a prosperous hamlet renowned for its inns and theatre during the hey-day of the coaching times. The mid 19th century was a time of general prosperity and population increase in England, so in Newbury as elsewhere, new residential suburbs were developed for the emerging middle classes. The site of Donnington Square was ideal. It was just a short distance from Newbury, yet well away from the housing of some of the poorer classes there. (The development of Porchester Villas, in what is now the Newtown Road Conservation Area, is comparable to that of Donnington Square). The extract from the Reading Mercury below, describes the high aspirations of the development and the importance of the new railway: Reading Mercury - 26th August 1848 - Page 2

"Donnington square An impulse has at length been given, from the facility of Railway communication, to the idea of improving our attractive neighbourhood by the erection of detached, ornamental, and commodious residences, with land equivalent to the scale of respectability: it will be seen by an announcement in another place, that a most delightful site in the immediate vicinity of Donnington Castle has been chosen for this purpose, to the extent of 10 acres - that the views from this spot are justly admired and well known, and the locality celebrated for its pure and healthy air. The scheme is one full of good promise, and, if carried out, as at present designated, will eventually prove highly remunerative, and a decided acquisition to the borough of Newbury."

A prominent Newbury solicitor and former Mayor of Newbury (1836-37), Jere Bunny, had acquired the land in 1848, and the surveyor/architect W.F Poulton, advertised for road makers and builders for boundary walls in the Reading Mercury of 26th August 1848. 4


DONNINGTON SQUARE, NEWBURY BERKS ROAD MAKERS and Others desirous of CONTRACTING for the FORMATION of the ROADS to the proposed DONNINGTON SQUARE , situate on the Oxford Road near Newbury, Berks, may see the Plans, Specifications, and Conditions, at the Office of Messrs. Bunny and Son, Solicitors, Newbury, and at my Office, on or after Wednesday, September the 6th. between the hours of ten and four. - Tenders will be received not later than Tuesday, September the 19th, and the lowest in amount will not necessarily be accepted. W.F. POULTON, Architect 2, Butter Market, Reading DONNINGTON SQUARE, NEWBURY BERKS BUILDERS and Others desirous of CONTRACTING for the ERECTION of the Eastern BOUNDARY WALLS AND FENCES of the proposed DONNINGTON SQUARE, situate in the Oxford Road, near Newbury, Berks, may see the Plans, Specifications and Conditions at the Office of Messrs. Bunny and Sons, Solicitors, Newbury, and at my office, on or after Wednesday, September the 6th, between the hours of ten and four. - Tenders will be received not later than Tuesday, September the 19th, and the lowest in amount will not necessarily be accepted. W.F. POULTON, Architect 2, Butter Market, Reading

W.F. Poulton (also an accomplished artist) painted a watercolour impression of the proposed development. Although the basic layout and styles of many of the original houses was as depicted, the houses in the central area were not in fact built till many years later. Two years later, in 1850, the development is well under way, as noted in the extract below: Reading Mercury 12th October 1850 Page 4

"Borough Improvements It is gratifying to observe that the spirit of improvement which has for some time manifested itself in this town, is still busily developing its presence, and giving evidence that Newbury has felt the effect of railway intercourse, and partaken of the onward movement which is the leading feature of the stirring times we now exist in. The new street rapidly forming on the western side of Northbrook-street, and communicating with the very tasteful new terrace, (of which the residences are precisely of the description which the town has so very long wanted,) is one evidence of the `march' we allude to. On the Donnington-road the villas rising (which will eventually constitute a crescent) will offer to families desirous of country retreat a picturesque neighbourhood and beautiful scenery, sites combining all these desiderata, and edifices whose internal arrangements will be in good keeping with the tasteful architectural front elevations."


Jere Bunny's brother, Edward Brice Bunny, was a banker in the firm Bunny and Slocock and a Deputy Lieutenant of Berkshire and Wiltshire. Henry Bunny, Jere's son, was the Town Clerk of Newbury (1849-53) and a partner in his father's law firm. He emigrated to New Zealand shortly before the death of Jere in 1854. After Jere Bunny's death there was a protracted dispute over ownership of some of the land at Donnington Square, which was handled by his executors and his brother Edward Brice Bunny. This dispute was not resolved until 1865, which may explain why records show that only some of the houses were initially occupied. By 1871 all the Victorian houses were built and occupied (Source: Census of 1871). At the time of the start of the development there were two lodges situated on the Oxford Road, at the entrance to the inner section of the Square. For many years these were occupied by gardeners who tended the commercial nursery behind them (see the section on Miller's Nursery). Only one lodge remains, now named Sundown - the other was demolished to make way for the garage of Foscote House in the 1940's

Sundown, 25 Oxford Road - the other lodge was demolished to make way for a garage


MAP FROM 1780 - showing the area between Newbury and Donnington

The map shows the Oxford Road (running diagonally from the red cluster of buildings of Speenhamland, towards the Parish of Donnington) - the configuration of the junction with what is now Grove Road is clearly shown. The land area between, the west side of which became Donnington Square, is labelled `Claypit Field'. These were enclosed in 1779, nearly 70 years before the enclosure of the East Fields, south of the town. The original map is kept at Shaw House. For more information about Enclosures in Berkshire see the website of the Berkshire Records Office (see `New Landscapes').



The progress of development is best seen on the four historic ordnance survey maps which are reproduced below:

O/S MAP 1880


O/S MP 1900

. O/S MAP 1911 - showing the two lodges on Oxford Road and three houses in the inner section - `Foscote Lodge' on the corner, `Stanmore' and `Anstell'


O/S MAP 1935 - development of the inner section continues, but the two empty plots on the outer ring remain, as does the orchard to the side of No 7.



No 7 Donnington Square - original front door, railings and basement entrance (shown left)

All the Victorian houses in Donnington Square have basements. There were service entrances to them from the gardens and they were also connected to the ground floor by internal stairs. They had low ceilings and were quite dark. It was only the ranges, which were constantly lit, that kept them from being unhealthily damp. Many of the basements fell into disrepair over the years and were only used for storage. However, with up to date tanking methods and central heating, nearly all of the basements are now fully used again.

Entrances to basements of No 26 & No 2 (below)

The auction catalogue for No 8 dated 6th December 1898 is reproduced below. It describes the amenities of the basement area and the rest of the house in detail. This home was one of a pair of identical, semidetached houses being sold. Unusually they had a secondary internal staircase leading to a bedroom and were possibly the most ornate houses in the Square at the time. No 8 was bought by Mrs Fellowes, who lived at Donnington Priory (presently Dreweatt Neate's), for her family. No 9, by the tenant, John Flint, an established local fuel merchant. The firm had their own railway siding and yard until it was sold to Sainsbury's for the present supermarket development. 11




Original kitchen range

In early Victorian times cooking involved many hours of preparation of raw ingredients, all conducted in the basement kitchens. There was no electricity for cooking, heating or hot water, so stoking the ranges was a daily chore for servants, as was maintenance of numerous fireplaces in the rest of the house.


Originally all the basements had rows of bells used to summon the servants. They worked by pulling on call bells in the upstairs rooms, which were directly attached to an elaborate system of wires, encased in lead cylinders, and embedded within the plastering of the walls. These led to the basement, allowing servants to be summoned. The front door pull worked on the same principle. Some are still retained:



Many of the houses originally had external wells. Internal wells have also been found in the basements of No 1 and 2 A NOTE ABOUT SERVANTS - A fascinating insight into the households of the middle-class residents of the Square and their servants can be seen in the 1881 census. Most households were shown to have one or two resident servants (though a few had three); these being mainly unmarried women under the age of 30, from Berkshire or the surrounding counties. (See Appendix 4, which is attached to the

Museum's copy of this Report). ICE HOUSES

In 2007 during building work to No 25 a structure believed to an intact ice house was discovered and photographed by the council department of archaeology. Evidence of other ice houses had previously been found at No 1 and 28. They were circular, brick lined and half sunk into the ground, with a stone top and covered in soil. After the 1850's rail transport became more widespread, so ice, imported from Norway and the US, could be transported and stored for domestic use. Iced drinks became fashionable in the following decades.

RECEPTION ROOMS The main reception rooms were on the ground floor; with tall ceilings, decorative cornices and plaster work, ornate fireplaces and large sash windows as shown below. There was no electricity at the time the houses were built, so decorative ceiling roses would have been a later addition

Windows fitted with wooden shutters, which fold back into casings typical of the ground floor windows of the Victorian houses in the Square


By modern standards the stairs are also rather special, with ornate carving and mahogany banisters


STOREYS All the Victorian houses are three-storey plus a basement floor, apart from one semi-detached pair which has a four-storey tower wing. The top tower room looks intriguing but is disappointingly small when one gets there, being just big enough for a dressing room or modern bathroom. However, there are wonderful views across the rooftops.

No 12 Donnington Square ­ a pink confection with four-storey tower Built by John Dyne in 1851 Nos 12/19 are the houses most influenced by the Italianate villa style.

NUMBERING IN DONNINGTON SQUARE For some reason the house numbers have changed through the years. For instance, the houses presently numbered 10, 11, 12 and 19 were originally numbered 14, 15, 16 and 17, as shown on a sketch plan of 1851 (BRO). Also the present No 19 was numbered 13 in the late 1800's. 16


No 1 Donnington Square is a well maintained, three-storey detached house with basement. There is evidence of an early side extension prior to the1880 map, by which time the late Victorian bay window had also been added. An additional front door, with a neo-Classical portico (shown below) was added in the 1970's when the house was converted into three flats. The primrose render, contrasting with the white quoins, produces a most attractive entrance to the Square.

No 1 Donnington Square - original Victorian detached house, now apartments. Side extension built before 1880

Rear of No 1, with 20th century replacement porch

Part of the back garden was sold in 1968 to developers Gough Cooper to create an access road to the Herewood Close estate. The letter box shown on the 1880 map was reinstated in the new garden wall. 17

Entry to basement from back garden of No 1 - a typical arrangement

No 2 had a two-storey side extension built in 2007, as shown below, when the house once again became a single residence. This blends very successfully, as the pitch of the front gable, the style of windows and the corner quoins match the original. Overall the extension enhances and improves the street scene.

No 2 Donnington Square - 2007 side extension left of picture


For a short period in the early 1900's the resident at No 2 was Miss Jane Luker, the well known headmistress of a girls' school in Newbury. Unusually for the time she was a Mathematics graduate, who developed her own progressive ideas for the education of girls. Luker Hall, in Andover Road, now part of St Bartholomew' s school was named for her. Next door is the first of the Victorian semi detached houses - Nos 3/4 . No 3 is now four flats, while No 4 remains a single home. The angle of the front gables, pastel render at the front, white quoins, large windows and grand entrance porches are similar to the style of the detached houses at No 1 and No 2.

Rear of semis No 3/4 above On the left: Single storey wing to No 3

William Gore, a Victorian artist, lived at No 3 and his simple studio in the back garden appears on the 1900 map - the large corrugated metal structure is still there today. His paintings of children appear to be in the walled gardens of the Square which seem almost unchanged today.

No 4 Donnington Square -pink, side extension 2006


The semis Nos 5/6 are not symmetrical. The outline of the large rotunda at the back of No 5 already appeared on the 1880 map. The side extension, left of the entrance porch, appears by 1900.

No 5 Donnington Square

Below are the rear of semis No 5 (two gables, pink) and No 6 (grey). The rotunda is possibly original


Next is a pair of semis, Nos 6a/ 6b, built in 1930s in the former orchard of No 7. They were built and let by Mr Hitchman, owner of a well known local building firm at the time. A previous owner recalls that even these seemingly modest houses where built with a call bell system and separate toilet for a servant.

6a and 6b Donnington Square


No 7 is an `odd man out' in the group of original houses built before 1880. It is a large, three-storey square `box' in a style more Georgian than Victorian. It was built as an imposing single residence finished in grey render with a projecting central porch topped by a stone lion. The house was built off centre on a very large plot. The impressive coach house in the adjacent orchard is described later in the text.

Nos 7a and 7b Donnington Sq - originally a detached house

No 7a was created by building a two-storey side extension and dividing No 7 to form two dwellings in 1932. This division was also done by Hitchmans to accommodate a relative, who later declined to live there. The back gardens still have charming old hedged paths (right) - a common feature in the Square.

NOTE: E. P. Hitchman was the builder of the1929 Clock Tower, a gift of James Henry Godding to the Town. The architect was C.R. Rowland-Clark.


Semi detached house Nos. 8/9 are very striking , three-storey plus basement, with towers topped with metal cladding and spike accentuating the outside front corners, and a shallow, three-storey bay window in the centre topped with a neat Dutch gable. The first floor window in the bay has a semi-circular top an Italianate touch.

Back view of Nos. 8/ 9 Donnington Square below - quite plain compared to the ornate front. Note the large side wings, which were added between 1880 and 1898, giving each house an extra reception room. The gardens are quite exceptionally lovely.


Olney Lodge (built by 1901, between present day Nos. 9 and 10) was the work of the architect W. Hunt. His design was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1901. It is possibly the most architecturally outstanding house in the Square and fortunately it has been well maintained.

It is influenced by the turn of the century `Arts and Crafts' style - itself a nostalgic mix of traditional pre-Victorian designs. In the words of Nicolaus Pevsner: "Red-brick, tile-hanging, Tudor, but with a low, rather Baroque angle tower and Art Nouveau lettering, quite resourceful". 24

One could add that it is asymmetrical, with stone mullioned windows, beautiful curving porch and a pebble dash top end to the front gable. The metal topped two-storey tower echoes those next door at Nos. 8/9. See Appendix for more details.

Olney Lodge seen in the southern curve of the Square

Next to Olney Lodge is another pair of Victorian semis ­ Nos. 10/11. These are again three-storey plus basement, each house having a front gable over a shallow two-storey square bay, plus a separate tower on the outside corner. The four historic o/s maps show a service track (wide enough for carriages and horses) between No 11 and No 12 next door, leading from the mid-point of the Square directly to the back lane where the stabling and cottages were. The carriage way was sold to the owners of No 11 in 1960s. They incorporated it into their garden and added a carport there.

Front entrance of No 11


Next door, the semi-detached house Nos. 12/19 (not a typing error!) are even more ornate, the height of Victorian embellishment, fortunately charming rather than over-the-top. It has most unusual square, four-storey side towers over the front door, set back from the main three-storey section of the house, which has a front gable. No 12 is rendered in pink, and No 19 is grey rough render Note the Italianate semi circular windows, the stone lintels and decorative first floor quoins. Only No 12 has quoins on the first floor and the barge boarding is plainer than that next door As already noted Nos. 10/11 and 12/19 were built by John Dyne in 1851. They were later all owned and let by the St John family until 1919 when they were sold off individually.

Victorian semi Nos. 12/ 19 - characteristic Italianate style 4 storey towers

No 17 is a surprise - a detached house from the 1950's, in fact, the first house ever built on that plot of land. It had been inherited in 1867 by Lt. Colonel Edward John St John and by 1952 the ownership of the land had passed to his daughter. At the age of 91 she sold it to the builder Arthur Cooke and the present house was built. In the back garden is a yew tree estimated to be 200 hundred years old, predating any of the buildings in the Square. Note: The only son of Edward Brice Bunny (see Appendix 1 - Historical Notes) changed his last name to St John in 1877. A Royal Licence was granted for this, probably because of an inheritance from his wife's family.


IRON RAILINGS - No 17 is the only property to retain the original wrought iron railings, assumed to

have been the standard front boundary - the others were removed during WWII. However there are many iron railings around basement entrances and elsewhere (see No 20 - picture below).

Nos. 20/21 is another elegant Victorian three-storey semi-detached house, relatively unadorned by the standard of its southern neighbours, but with a fine, decorative iron railing along a narrow ledge to the side of the door.


Victorian semi No 21- original wrought iron balcony

This 3 storey semi has a single, common front gable, with two-storey side wings housing the entrance doors (photo above). There is a basement level below the entrance floor as elsewhere in the Square, but the flight of steps up to the front door is rather higher than usual. Semi detached house Nos. 22/23 The o/s map dated 1880 show an empty building plot, however, the deeds of No 22 show that the land includes the foundations and footings of previous buildings (unfortunately the sketch plan of the outline is missing). The present owners were told that there had been Victorian houses there which had been destroyed by fire. The present houses were built in 1937, in red brick, with red clay tiles on a complex roof line. Their style shows some `Arts and Crafts' influence, which was popular in the inter-war period. Both houses are set well back from the main building line of the Square, possibly to avoid any previous building works, and enjoy a widening back garden on the curve of the crescent.


Back garden of No 23 - widening out. Note the very old hedge, evidence of an earlier Victorian garden. There had been a Victorian summer house in the garden of No 22, which eventually deteriorated beyond repair and had to be removed.

Next is another Victorian semi detached house - Nos. 24/25 - again three-storey plus basement, rather simple in its original design, but with very elegant proportions. Like Nos. 20/21, it has a shared single gable and a two-storey side wings. The entrance is approached up a flight of nine stone steps. Both No 24 and 25 have reinstated their kitchens in the basement and enjoy spacious family rooms there, whilst retaining large formal, interconnecting, reception rooms and impressive hallways on the ground floor. The very large side extension to No. 25 was built in 2007, thus losing the symmetry of the houses.


Victorian Semi detached house - Nos 26/27 - is also asymmetrical. No 26 is a huge house with a `rotunda' at the back (built before 1880, so it could be original). It is surprising to learn that it was occupied by just two sisters and their three servants at the turn of the 19th century. In 1933 estate agents' sales particulars show that additional land was owned across and beyond the back lane, with both hard and soft tennis courts and a vegetable plot. No 26 is now in multiple occupation, with four bed-sits on each of the three floors, sharing a communal laundry and shower rooms in the basement. Today a small section of the back garden has been lost to the garages, which are let.

From the left - part of No 27, then the rotunda at No 26. The extended No 25 is on the right. In the foreground is the small car park

No 27, the smaller half of the Victorian semi, was converted into four roomy self-contained flats in 1988. This was done by building on a three-storey side extension, set back from the main bulk of the house (as can be seen through the autumn leaves in the photo on the left). This only houses the access staircase, giving each flat its own private front entrance. The property is well maintained and residents have the use of the private car park adjacent to the back garden. This is accessed from the back lane, off the Oxford Road.


Nos. 28 and 29 - Note the 3 storey side extension on the far right, which houses a staircase providing access to the flats in No 29

Victorian Semi detached house Nos. 28/29 - No 28 is unusual in that it is the only house which has the original entrance door at the side. The reception rooms are on either side of a central hall and stairway which allows double aspect windows to the rooms on all the floors and makes the upper landings exceptionally light.


No 29 was converted into four flats in the 1990s, one on each of the floors (including the basement). A side extension was built to accommodate a new staircase, providing a private front entrance to each flat. No 30 is a detached Victorian house at the north head of the crescent, built in a rather plain style, though with corner quoins. It is now let as four flats, with an ugly exterior stair case and has been allowed to deteriorate. The once elegant entry way has been blocked off. Unusually for the Square, it appears to be faced with stone, which over time has discoloured, making the house somewhat dingy looking compared to the attractive facades of the rest of the Victorian properties. This is unfortunate, considering its prominent position.



Running around the back of the Square is a lane which was originally for access to the stabling and for tradesmen and servants. There are a few garages here now as well as some original stabling, together with three mid 20th century houses, replacing the earlier terrace of three cottages (named Pump, Rose and North) seen as an `L-shape' on the north west corner on the old maps. Some years later their outbuildings were converted to provide two extra dwellings. None had a running water supply and they were all condemned in the early 1950's. The present bungalows as well as two plots formerly belonging to No 26 and also accessed from the lane, are all included within the Conservation area.

Bungalows Nos. 37 and 38 Donnington Square - accessed off Oxford Road

It should be noted that the lane is recorded as a `private accommodation road' on some deeds. According to a former resident of the cottages, it always used to be closed off from the Oxford Road on Good Friday, to stop it becoming a `right of way'. It is now frequently used by non-residents of the Square as a short cut, as it gives them quick access to the town centre and local schools. It has no hard surface, is muddy in wet weather and has no lighting. Litter collects there as well. The lane is owned and maintained by the residents of the Square - the section adjacent to their property traditionally being accepted as their responsibility. At the end of the 20th century, the owners of No 8, who had a small orchard with the back track going through it, re-aligned the track westwards, to accommodate new garages at the end of their own garden. The early O.S. maps all show a track connecting the lane to the midpoint of the road around the Square, which provided access for horses and carriages. This fell out of use with the advent of the motor car and was bought and incorporated into the garden of No 11 in the early 1960s.


Lane at the back of Donnington Square

No 7, originally a large detached residence, had a substantial brick coach house built between 1880 and 1900 which was entered from the back lane. It is now in the grounds of No 6a - the wide entrance can be seen below. In addition to stabling, there was a day room for staff with a fireplace, overlooking the orchard, as well as sleeping quarters in two lofts accessed by fixed ladders. It is currently being restored.

No 6a's Coach House originally in grounds of No 7



For five generations the William Miller family ran a large commercial nursery at Speen Hill and for some years also in the central area of Donnington Square ­ see 1861 advertisement below. The Bunny family, who owned the central area at that time, had also lived at Speen Hill.

The 1861 Census shows at Donnington Square: Lodge1: occupied by Wm. Miller's aunt Elizabeth, nee Miller and her husband Henry Minnis. Lodge 2 : William Miller and family (third generation). North Cottage - rear of Donnington Square - was occupied for many years by Joseph Vockins, a cousin of the Miller family. A HORTICULTURAL NOTE: a lasting legacy of the Miller Nursery all around the country is the Millers' Seedling Dessert Apple Tree, propagated at Speen in 1840. The last Miller Nurseryman, Andrew, was responsible for the supply of the decorative trees alongside the A4, many of which can still be seen, particularly near Midgham & Beenham, (Source: Frances Bale, grand-daughter of the late Hubert Miller) 35


Development of the inner section did not commence until after 1906 when the owner, Lt. Col Edward St John (formerly known as Edward Bunny) disposed of the land two years before his death. A large tract of land directly opposite Olney Lodge was bought then by the elderly owners of the lodge, presumably for privacy and their continued enjoyment of overlooking a garden. Tennis courts were later built on this area. A former resident recalls that for many years these were not only used by friends and residents, but also by groups such as the YWCA. By 1913 three Edwardian houses on the south side (see 1910 o/s map) and one on the northern corner had been built. The latter, originally called Weylands, was on a double plot and there was an early addition of a housekeeper's sitting-room complete with electric call bells. DESCRIPTION OF THE INNER HOUSES The two largest of the Edwardian houses, facing the Oxford Road on the north and south corners, are externally reminiscent of the style of late Victorian housing. However, internally they have spacious halls and staircases as well as the three reception rooms considered necessary by Edwardians. Live-in servants were still the norm and they would have slept in the attic rooms.

Weylands No 32 - shown above. On the left is Foscote Lodge- built on the corner in red brick, with two sets of twostorey bay windows, topped by Tudor timbered gables.

The next two houses on the south side are Stanmore and Anstell House - (the latter was originally called Bergen, which is carved in the stone lintel above the front door, then Little Beeches, finally changed to the present name in 1988). Both are built in a more innovative style, showing `Arts & Crafts' influence. They are fine examples of the Edwardian suburban villa style. Anstell House, built in red brick, has typical external features such as two-storey bay windows, timbering in the gables and prominent stone lintels. Stanmore is part rendered, part red brick, with a continuous porch, complex wings and roof lines. 36

Edwardian `Arts & Crafts' style villas Stanmore left) and Anstell House (below)

No 34, built in the 1960s, was sympathetically extended in the early 2000s and now echoes the style of its neighbour, No 36, built in the 1920s. At that time the large double garage and workshop dating back to before the 1930s was demolished. There is evidence that the land was formerly owned by No 32 No 36 , Little Lawn (below) is the only inter-war house in the inner section of the Square, the first house to be built without live-in servants' quarters. It has a very large frontage, following the inner curve of the Square, set behind the deep grass verge. Compared to the other houses, it nestles within its plot - the front of the house can only be glimpsed through a small gap in the high hedge. It is a beautiful but simple family house in the `cottage style' made popular by the architect Charles F. A. Voysey. It has small metal window panes, white rough rendered walls, pitched roofs, and external exposed oak pillars. Over the years it has been sympathetically extended on the north side (left side in the photo below).


The remaining three detached houses - Nos. 42, 44 & 46 - are all two-storey and of smaller proportions. They were all built between 1960 and1970 on the land formerly owned by Olney Lodge. Their design in turn reflects further changes in life-styles, when the housewife no longer needed (nor could afford) servants. No 42 has an interesting old summer house in the back garden, which originally revolved by being turned on a spindle. This dates from when Olney Lodge owned the land (see below)

The gardens of all the houses in the inner section are large, and these, together with the wide grass verge along the edge of the inside kerb contribute to the spacious feel of the Square, despite the loss of the inner garden.

Originally all the trees planted around the verge were lime trees however, as they have aged some have been under planted with sorbus. The mature gardens and trees in the Square provide a lovely setting for the many outstanding Victorian houses in the Conservation Area. 38


ADDITIONAL HISTORICAL INFORMATION 1799 Counterpart leases for 14 years for 4 parcels of land in Clay Pit field in the Parish of Speen signed on behalf of the Master, Co-brethren and Sisters of St Bartholomew's charity in Newbury. 1. 1848 1stJuly. Conveyance of `a parcel of land containing 9 acres 3 roods and 4 poles .part of a common field called Clay Pit Field' from 5 members of the Wright family to Jere Bunny. 1. 1848 26th August. Reading Mercury -1 editorial column & 2 advertisements for road makers and brick layers to apply to William Poulton, surveyor. See Page 5 1849 3rdFeb. `Certificate of Contract' for the redemption of the land tax is issued. 1. 1849 Donnington Square is not shown on the map `Ten Miles around Newbury' by Davis. 2. 1850 Watercolour by W.F. Poulton depicting proposed development.1 See page 45

1850 27th April. Entry in minute book of Newbury Corporation ­ William Jones of Donnington Square, brick maker 1. 1850 12th October. Reading Mercury editorial arising See Page 5

1851 1st May. Jere Bunny sells 4 plots - part of land heretofore called Clay Pit field but now known as Donnington Square to John Dyne of Newbury, builder, for £400. 1. 1852 1st Jan. Jere Bunny conveys to his son, Henry, for £4200, the principal part of the land called Clay Pit field. 3. 1852 2nd Aug. John Dyne mortgages 4 houses described as `lately erected'. They are later repossessed by the lenders, the Rev. Henry Hallett and Henry Williams Pemberton 1. 1853 17th Oct. Henry Bunny conveys to Richard Shaw for £6000, `the principal part of Clay Pit field and the houses built thereon' 3. 1853. Richard Shaw, timber merchant, borrows £6000 from the bankers, Edward Brice Bunny and Charles Slocock, for one year. He defaults on his payments.3&4. 1853 7th Nov. Henry Bunny sails to New Zealand with his wife & children on the `Duke of Portland' Two days later his father dissolves their law partnership & disinherits him. 5. 1854 March. Jere Bunny dies at Speen Hill. Various lawsuits ensue between his executors also the bankers, Bunny & Slocock, and Richard Shaw.1&3. 1854. Billing's Directory and Gazetteer of Berkshire & Oxfordshire, page 317. Donnington Square Woodspeen given as the address of 4 people in the gentry list. 2. 1855 28th Dec. The Mortgagors of 4 houses repossessed from John Dyne, fail to sell them at auction & 39

sell them to Edward Brice Bunny, banker & brother of Jere. They remain in the ownership of his family till 1919.1&4. 1861 Census: The registrar records 15 houses as occupied and 7 as U or unoccupied 1863 Richard Shaw files suit in Chancery but in 1865 agrees to put an end to litigation and reaches an equitable agreement on division of the land. The bankers Bunny & Slocock acquire ownership of all of the inner area of the Square as tenants in common.4. 1864 W. Hall's Newbury Guide lists the names of 11 residents including 3 clergy - the Rev Thomas Barton, the Rev. William Milton and the Rev. Whittaker (Page 28) 1865 18th July. Charles Slocock, banker, dies. All his land is left to his son Charles Samuel. 1867 9th Sept. Edward Brice Bunny, banker, dies aged 82. All his land is left to his son Edward John. 4.

Newbury Weekly News advertisements 1867 28th March. TO BE LET with immediate possession, this comfortable and pleasantly situated FAMILY RESIDENCE being No. 27 Donnington Square, one mile from the Newbury Railway Station, comprising large & well proportioned Dining & Drawing rooms, 7 Bedrooms, Dressing Room, front and back Kitchens, Pantries, Fixtures, Garden & every suitable convenience with water apparatus complete to the highest storey. Rent moderate. Apply to Mr Cowper, solicitor. No. 8 Donnington Square.


TO BE LET No 1 Donnington Square, No children, 6 Bedrooms, Servants' quarters.

1871 Census: All 22 of the Victorian houses of the outer perimeter are listed as occupied. 1872. Account for gas lighting. A lamplighter was paid 5 shillings per annum. He was paid at Christmas 1871 so the lighting must have been in by then. A crossing sweeper was also paid 5 shillings for 1871. The year's lighting had cost £11 5s, but the collectors of the money, Cowper and Blacket, had collected £12 7s, so there was a balance of 12 shillings for the year. There was also a £2 balance brought forward from 1871. The lights were paid for privately by residents as they were outside of the area of public lighting. 2. 1874. Charles Samuel Slocock of Donnington sells his share of land in the Square, to Edward John Bunny of Slinfold Lodge, Horsham for £400. It includes all of the inner area `then and for many years the nursery of William Miller'. 4. 1877. Edward John Bunny changes his surname to St John, probably because of an inheritance. His children later take the surname St John St John. 4. 40

1906 Development of the land in the inner section commences when Lt. Colonel Edward St John sells the land. He dies 2 years later aged 79. The family involvement with the Square ends in the 1950's when his surviving daughter, Mabel Bertha, born 14th March 1861, sells her remaining inherited property. 4. ************************

It should perhaps be noted that many of the Victorian houses fell into a poor state of repair post WW2 when smaller more easily managed homes became popular. Several were let out as rooms or flats with shared facilities. However, with the advent of central heating & labour saving appliances period homes began to be appreciated again & by the latter years of the 20th C most had been restored as family homes or converted into unique modern flats.

References 1. Berkshire Record Office, Reading holds original documents relating to the above conveyances, leases, and some of the exhibits used in evidence in the various legal cases. The web site A2A (Access to Archives) lists the catalogue reference numbers assigned to each document. The original Poulton watercolour is also at BRO as is a copy of `A Biographical Dictionary of Architects at Reading' by the local historian Sidney M. Gold which includes a section on Poulton & a detailed summary of his life & work. 2. From information held at the West Berkshire Museum, Newbury. 3. `Reports of Cases in Chancery argued before the Master of the Rolls' (source -internet book search). 4. Extracted from property deeds by courtesy of the current owners of several of the houses in Donnington Square. 5. Codicil to the will of Jere Bunny & extract from a Law Society report of that year.

Footnotes: a. The present owners of the small castellated lodge on the Oxford Road (formerly occupied by gardeners) have found that their original deeds no longer exist. A NWN article of 4th Jan. 1990 reported that a previous owner believed it was an ancient tollhouse & gatehouse but there does not appear to be any evidence to support this The original lodges are not shown on a sketch plan at BRO dated 1851 nor on the Poulton watercolour so may simply have been designed later to create an imposing entrance to both Miller's nursery gardens & the Square. b. Henry Bunny, son of Jere, although declared bankrupt in England after his sudden departure, was successful in New Zealand. Bunnythorpe town in the Manawatu province is named for him as is Bunny Street in Wellington. Arthur Rigby Bunny Street in Masterton is named for his second son who was also born in Newbury. 41




The oldest record of the plot of land on which the house was built is dated January 1899. In this indenture the Reverend Joseph James Gibb and Charles Henry Minter Curwood sell to William Thomas Shaw for Two Hundred Pounds "that piece of land ....situate in the borough of Newbury but formerly in the parish of Speen, formerly part and parcel of a common field called Clay Pit Field ...which said piece of land forms part of a certain square called Donnington Square and is bounded on the east by the front carriage road or way leading to and from the Oxford Road, on the north by the hereditaments of Major Edward John Bunny, on the west by a back road or right of way and on the south by hereditaments and premises of John Flint esq. The design and building of Olney Lodge were commissioned by William Shaw shortly after he acquired the land. The census of 1901 lists the `head of house' as his sister in law Mary Burrough , retired governess, aged seventy one years. She lives with her younger brother and sister and one servant. Her sister is a schoolmistress and her brother a printing compositor. The plot of land together with' the dwelling house erected and built thereon by said William Thomas Shaw and called "Olney Lodge" is conveyed in 1906 by his widow Elisabeth Shaw to her sisters Mary Burrough and Margaret Burrough "in consideration of the natural love and affection which the said Elisabeth Shaw has and bears for said sisters and for divers other good causes and considerations". In the same year the Burrough sisters buy the land opposite Olney Lodge `the south west corner of the actual square` for Two Hundred and Fifty Pounds off Colonel Edward John St John. In 1907 the sisters also acquire the adjoining plots on the north side from him. The Burrough sisters died in 1910 and 1931 respectively. In November 1931 the house and all the land is sold by the nephews and executors of the late Burrough sisters to Angus Marshall of Newbury, solicitor in the county of Berkshire, for the sum of Two thousand Two hundred and Fifty pounds. One half share of the freehold is transferred by deed of gift to Alice Jane Marshall in 1966 and in 1967 the plots of land are sold off. The land that remains on the other side of the road is what is now known as the garage plot. In 1980 Olney Lodge and the garage plot are sold to Robert Perkins and Mrs Faith Perkins, both of 12 Donnington who live there until April 2004 when thy sell the house to the present owners.


ARCHITECTURE of OLNEY LODGE The architect William Hunt exhibited the design for Olney Lodge at the Royal Academy in 1901. Although inspired by the styles of previous eras the design is an exceptional example of the Edwardian `villa' style with an impressive entrance, central hall and staircase, high ceilings and ornate windows. There are two - formerly three - reception rooms and a large kitchen-breakfast room on the ground floor cleverly positioned around the central staircase and hall. On the first floor there are four almost equally large bedrooms and a large family bathroom. The impressive landing and the butterfly floor plan reflect the architect's strong belief in geometrical design. On the second floor there are two further bedrooms of almost identical size. No wonder Pevsner called it "quite resourceful" as a large family and possibly staff could still live comfortably in this stylish, yet practically laid out house. It's probably because of this that over a period of more than 100 years only minor changes have been carried out; the partition wall between the dining and drawing room was removed in 1980 whilst a bay window was removed at the back of the dining room to allow for a conservatory over the full width of the house in 1988. The scullery, coal hole and larder have long since gone and the current owners have updated all the facilities and redecorated the house, but they have also left the original floor plan unchanged. The fact that the subsequent owners over a period of more than a century left the original design of William Hunt practically unaltered is perhaps the greatest compliment to the architect of Olney Lodge.

Newbury, March 2008

PS: The original plan by W. Hunt is available for viewing but not for publication.




Reproduced with the permission of the Berkshire Records Office




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