Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape







(AAS Arborfield 52A)


“Wokingham Revisited 2003”


Our walk around Wokingham starts with what, for me, was the jewel in the Wokingham Crown. It still is but the Crown is now rather tarnished.


Queens Head 1900s

The Queen’s Head, Wokingham, in the early 1900s.


This is a photo taken in the early 1900s but to all intents and purposes it was the same when we frequented it. The Hewett & Co. brewery must have been situated fairly locally in those days. In the bar to the left of the entrance the ceiling was very low and beamed. The dartboard had a metal tray above it, between the beams, and there was an art in throwing an arrow and bouncing it off the shield and into the board. As a mixed group of friends we would gather and sit outside on the grass embankment, supping our lemonades and eating crisps, probably Smith's Crisps with the blue salt twist in the corner of the packet. They might even have been Crimpy Crisps from the factory down the road towards Reading; they also did choice nuts and raisins. Alas the Crimpy Crisp factory was flattened and on the site now stands a large Sainsbury's Supermarket, probably selling Walker's crisps that you can buy anywhere. It always seemed to be a nice afternoon or evening when we sat outside, did it ever rain in our time at Wokingham? I only remember blue skies, but then I'm just a sentimental old fool, you ask the grandchildren. They don't always include the word "sentimental" either.


crimpy crisps 4


Crimpy packet 3

As seen on E-Bay.

Photos above are of Crimpy Crisp products I enjoyed in the 1950s.


Queens Head 2003

The Queen’s Head and Terrace, Wokingham, in March 2003.


This photograph (above) was taken on my first trip back to Wokingham in nearly 50 years. It was my birthday so I got to use the camera. My Mavis is between our old friends, and this would be the first time we had come face-to-face with them in nearly 50 years. Jim joined the RAF but we don't hold that against him. With them we walked around the town centre, being shown all the old bits and all the changes. As you can see, the old pub has hardly changed; perhaps it looks better than in its early days. I wonder if the same could be said about the Mafia standing in front of it.


Below is another jewel of architecture , Ye Olde Rose Inn, pictured in 1965.


Olde Rose Inn 1965

Ye Olde Rose Inn, Wokingham, 1965.


Pictured ten years after we left, with a few alterations which I don't remember, but still a very good looking building. It was a slightly up-market hostelry which had retained all the character of the old coaching inn that it once was. It stands at the top of Denmark Street, opposite the Market Place and the Town Hall. At one time it was owned by the Berni Inn chain, steakhouses for the masses. I remember it because it was the only watering hole in the town that I was asked to leave. It wasn't my fault, honest Guv; it was the group I followed in who got a bit rowdy and I was mistaken for one of them. Possibly our very short back and sides didn't match the impression they wished to impart to their clientele.


Olde Rose Inn 2003

Ye Olde Rose Inn, Wokingham 2003.


When I saw this desecration (above) I could not believe that any town council could stand by and allow this to happen to such a fine old building right at the heart of the town. Indeed it provoked some considerable anger from the local citizens and the owners were told it had to be restored, but unfortunately, not back to its original style. In the meantime, it was sold to new owners who promised to tone it down, which I'm told has been done, but as yet I haven't seen it. Things never stand still, but not all "improvements" are to the good.

I nearly gave my life to take this picture. You will notice I was standing on a paved pedestrian area in safety, as I thought. The streets around the town centre are now a one-way, glorified urban race track  except near the Town Hall where buses are allowed to contra-flow. To turn into Denmark Street from Broad Street they are allowed to turn right and cross the pedestrian area. I was trying to get a decent photo and concentrating on the viewfinder, oblivious to anything else going on. I heard a toot on a horn but still carried on. Next I heard a loud blast and turned left to come face to face with a big omnibus about a foot away, the driver looking as though he was about to throw a fit. Giving him one of my disarming smiles I quietly walked away, a stream of Arborfield-style language flowing from my lips.


On a recent visit to Wokingham (2009) I saw the redecorated inn which now hosts a Café Rouge coffee bar.


RoseHotel May 2009-2

The Rose Hotel, Wokingham 2009


A much improved décor, leaning towards the original style, but now renamed as The Rose Hotel. A pity really as it was a coaching inn and the new title doesn’t do justice to its history which started in the 1600s.

The history is quite a tangled tale and can be read from HERE.

The source of the photograph above, history and copyright © are acknowledged as Dead Pubs.co.uk


Whether or not you gravitated to Wokingham or Reading, you will certainly remember this place below, where we started our ‘Cali’ trip down memory lane in 2003 with our friends.


Longmoor Lake

Longmoor Lake at California aka The Cali, circa 1960.


The photograph (above) was taken circa1960 when it was owned by Lakeside Holidays, but looked very similar in our day. I have been gripped by My Mavis who informs me that she got there before I did, after the war (the 2nd one), as a wee lass travelling by coach on a day trip from her Sunday School in the East End of London. Quite a journey back in the "olden days", I'm surprised she can remember that far back.

My memories include Wednesday sports afternoon, forming up in threes outside ‘F’ Spider dressed in Vest PT red, Shorts PT blue, Socks worsted grey, and Boots ammo. "By the front, double march!" for 100 yards, "Break into quick time!" for 100 yards and so on, out past the Sick Bay onto the roads which circled “The Cali”. At full tilt we must have looked and sounded like a demented, multi-coloured millipede on speed. Had a car parked in front of us it would have been a case of up on the boot, over the roof, along the bonnet and back on to the road, taking no prisoners nor stopping for obstructions. We would come into “The Cali” from the far side and run alongside the lake and if it was hot there was a chance we might strip down to our Drawers, cellular, green and frolic in the water.


Our trip took us back to California in England, the photos below recall some of the buildings that were there. Sadly we took no photos on our latest visit; there was nothing to take. The art-deco buildings have been replaced with a long, low wooden shack, and The California Country Park now consists of permanent wooden cabins and mobile residential homes set in the pinewoods. There is talk of trying to revive the area as an entertainment centre but the plans seem to be ‘pie in the sky’. We will just have to console ourselves with memories of the swimming, speedway and stock-car racing, the beauty contests and dancing on the illuminated, sprung, superb dance floor. Hey Ho, more history confined to the scrap heap.



California in England 01


California in England 02


You may like to revive some memories of ‘The Cali’ from HERE.


Standing outside “Headquarters” aka The Queen's Head and looking down the slope towards the railway station and the level crossing, in the direction of Arborfield, to the right you would see The Hope & Anchor pub as shown in the photo (below). I have no particular recollection of this establishment except that it was included in the last term pub crawl of old Wokingham Town. The aim was to visit, over a period of time, every pub in Wokingham and sip a lemonade in each. What wasn't taken into consideration was the fact that every street in the town had a minimum of two pubs, with most streets having many more, the hangover from being a market town.


Hope & Anchor

The Hope & Anchor, Wokingham.


Hope & Anchor 2003

The Hope & Anchor, Wokingham 2003.

The vehicles are modern but The Hope & Anchor is substantially the same as I remembered it, only the traffic cone has been changed to protect its identity.

Our return in 2003 saw us walking up from the station. The old stylish station, from where we set off in droves for our furloughs has been demolished and replaced with what looks like a post-war prefab, typical of the 1960's ‘ticky-tacky’ architecture. 


station 2 w

Wokingham Station as was.


OLD PHOTO'S 1 252 w

Wokingham Station as it is in 2010

Photo Copyright © James Robinson.


Spirits were lifted when, walking up the slope towards The Terrace with the Queen’s Head, the picture was just as it was in our days, a preservation order had seen to that. Pity they hadn't issued a lot more of them.

One of the main streets in town was Peach Street, which in our day was two-way traffic, even though it was quite narrow. The coach approaching (below) gives some indication of scale. 


Peach Street

Peach Street, Wokingham.


On our return in 2003 the picture was quite different.


Peach Street 2003

Peach Street, Wokingham, 2003


Not quite the same viewpoint but still Peach Street, looking towards Denmark Street to the left, and sweeping right into Broad Street. The main building is still probably the most recognisable in town, the Town Hall-cum-Fire Station as was. The road is now one-way towards the Town Hall and is part of the race track that surrounds the town centre. Step off the kerb at your peril, as indeed I found out.


Peach Street 2003(2)

Wokingham Town Hall 2003


Where stood the fire engines, probably with horses in the "olden days" which were stabled at Ye Olde Rose Inn, there are now compact and bijoux shops, or small and "arty-farty" boutiques. To the top right is a sign representing The Bush. This was the site of another of the town's finest old buildings, "The Bush Inn", a picturesque old coaching inn. The courtyard was quiet and dark, a fine trysting place. It's now the entrance to a very mediocre shopping area which is now virtually unused. The Civic Worthies of the town passed plans for the shopping centre to be redeveloped. It was to be realigned so that it faced out on to Rose Street, this street containing lots of old historic buildings which would be swept away. It was planned to be a piazza-style development. All of the shops were at the end of their leases or agreed to give them up, except one. The owners refused to move before they had to, which is in a few years time. It dragged on and eventually the developers walked away, leaving the shopping precinct with loads of empty shops and no potential tenants, bearing in mind the Council plans for redevelopment.

The empty lane in the road is where buses travel in the opposite direction to the traffic and swing right across to go down Denmark Street. Looking up Denmark Street towards the Town Hall you get a better perspective of the size of the building.


Town Hall

Wokingham Town Hall viewed from Denmark Street.


On the right would be the Old Rose Inn and the Red Lion, on the left but further back, behind your left shoulder, would be the Drill Hall where dances were held on some Saturdays. I used to go to them, but mainly to listen to the music, standing to the side of the dance floor and soaking up the scene. Occasionally, when a "Ladies Invitation" dance was announced some voracious, but unknowing, female would pounce and drag me on to the floor. I could give a very passable imitation of a "tick-tock" man, with two left feet and the same number of left arms. Halfway through the dance I would be allowed to resume my watching and listening role.


Ted Blowers 1954

1954 - Fusilier Ted Blowers riding his motorbike.


Here (above) we have an all action shot of one of our Arborfielders, namely Fusilier Ted Blowers in 1954 aboard his 750cc Dominator.  Denmark Street is shown as two-way, not the current one-way.


Town Hall 2003

Wokingham Town Hall, 2003, viewed from Denmark Street.


By 2003 and the scene hasn't changed very much, just that the vehicles are more modern and all going the same way. To the left of the picture (above) can be seen a shop in Broad Street decorated in what is deemed to be an appropriate historical colour. Hysterical would seem a better description.

The façade of the previously mentioned Drill Hall, below, still looks original. When we went back in 2003 we believed the passage that led to the Drill Hall was the entrance to Tesco's Supermarket, the Drill Hall having been demolished. However, at about that time it was altered, Tesco's had moved out of town and the building became a health and fitness club, a coffee house and an Argos catalogue shop. The cottages either side of the entrance were for the permanent staff but are now small shops.


Drill Hall

The former Wokingham Drill Hall, 2003.


The Red Lion was another fine hostelry with exposed timber beams. Parts of it are incorporated into the present property. Another architectural disaster for Wokingham.


Red Lion

The Red Lion, Wokingham, 2003.


The Red Lion sign still sits over the Red Lion passage. To the right is a sandwich bar, leaning rather ominously. The passage way led to The Waterloo, the best dance hall in town. Originally it was a British Restaurant during the war, where you could buy a full meal without using any coupons from your ration book.  As a dance hall it was a much more intimate place than the Drill Hall, friendlier, and less formal. The Top Five were the top band, if you were lucky it would be the Top Five Plus Two.

By this time the dancing lessons that I had taken at the camp were beginning to have some effect and I could now shuffle round the floor without doing too much damage. The Creep was an "in" tune of the time and it fitted my style of shuffle. They persisted with the Ladies Invitation dance and I now got invited on to the floor more often, but once there I would be trapped for the Paul Jones where we formed two contra-rotating circles, circling while the music played and dancing with the girl you were facing when the music stopped.  There was often a lot of last minute re-arranging of partners, probably my reputation as a dancer had spread. Some desperate soul usually grabbed hold before I managed to escape to the side of the floor. Another disastrous sequence was the Ladies Invitation followed by the Ladies Excuse Me dance. Usually the poor lass who had me didn't get relieved by anybody else, she was stuck with me. As I walked around town on our 2003 visit I looked at some of the old grannies hobbling along with walking sticks and Zimmer frames, and thought that I might have been the cause of their injuries, fifty years earlier. Serves them right. I only wanted to listen to the music.

Viewed from the air, in 1955, the building in the centre of the picture (below) doesn't look very exciting, a bit like a battery chicken house, but for me this was the hub of Wokingham, the best place to go for fun, frolic and friendship.



The Waterloo, Wokingham.


Known variously as The British Restaurant, The Waterloo Restaurant, The Waterloo Jazz Club & Dance Hall, it provided me with a complete break from the rigours of Arborfield.

Why Wokingham?  Why not Reading? The explanation is long winded but quite simple. Back with HQ Company as an A/NCO we had extra time off, and we could wear civvies quite early on. I started by going to Reading for relaxation, first port of call would be Ma Beasley's for the best and cheapest food in town. They knew where we came from and that we didn't have a lot of cash to spare and we always got very good portions. Followed that with a quiet stroll through the park that ran alongside the river to relax. Might go through the shopping area but having got a return bus ticket and had a meal, there wasn't much left from the 6/- pocket money we drew.  A case of nose pressed up against the window pane. On the odd occasion I bought a ticket for the "Gods" at the Palace Theatre, right up at the top of the house, sitting on the concrete steps that doubled as seats. Looking down on the stage was like looking down on a goldfish bowl through the wrong end of a telescope. But it was live entertainment.

And then I met my personal Nemesis. I went to the Majestic Ballroom a couple of times. First visit OK, good music and some nice arm-candy to look at. Second visit, standing at the edge of the dance floor I must have looked like a homing beacon for trouble. Short hair, traditional suit and tie, leather shoes with shiny toe-caps, a squaddy on a night out. Perfect target. I was surrounded by half a dozen Teddy Boys looking for a bit of fun. First the remarks, then the touching, then the digs getting a bit harder. The "TILT" sign was flashing before my eyes. In for a penny, in for a pound, I flashed my most charming smile at the one in front of me, then decked him, rewarded with the sight of a crimson flow from his nose. One second later I was the bottom layer of a Teddy Boy Pizza with a topping of punches and kicks. Luckily they were wearing "Brothel Creepers" with regulation one-inch-thick soft crepe soles, so I didn't suffer too much damage. Unseen by me with my face pressed up against the floor, this was the signal for Majestic Mass Mayhem with everybody piling in for a bit of the action. I came out from the bottom of the pile like toothpaste coming out of a tube. Standing up, I looked down and saw two of my assailants trapped under the pile. Another charming smile and then I buried my hard shiny pointed toecaps into some soft flesh. Remembering the family motto "Health in stealth" I made a quick exit on to the street, checked my bits and pieces and adjusted my clothing. Whilst doing this, two trucks pulled up and disgorged a good number of blue-suited, white-capped and white-gaitered Royal Air Force Police who went clattering in to The Majestic. Time to be somewhere else. I set off back to base, stopping only for a glass of "Tizer The Appetizer" on the way. It would be one of the rare times when I would be glad to be safely back at camp.

So Wokingham became my preferred destination. You Reading visitors reading these memories will now know that there was an alternative to the bright lights of Reading. Wokingham visitors may get some pleasure from reading the account of our return visit, and recall some of their own trips around the town.

So Wokingham became my preferred destination. You Reading visitors reading these memories will now know that there was an alternative to the bright lights of Reading. Wokingham visitors may get some pleasure from reading the account of our return visit, and recall some of their own trips around the town.

For is it not writ:

"We should not live our lives in our memories, yet shall we not know, through our memories, that we have lived our lives?"


N.B. The origins of some of the older photos are lost in the mists of time, but I acknowledge the work of those photographers who recorded these scenes of our past so that we may see them in our present.


Additional information added 1st February 2011


Railway Tap w

After publishing these meanderings I had a query about Molly Millar's establishment. Not one of my haunts but, according to the page of history shown above, it started life as the Railway Hotel before changing to the Molly Millar. With typical Wokingham sophistication, at some time it was given the dreaded paint make-over and renamed Big Hand Mo's Good Time Emporium. Don't even ask, but there must have been a reason. Happily we are informed it is once again the Molly Millar. Sanity reigns.

From photos taken recently of the station area, some doubt is cast on the assertion that the Railway Hotel was transformed into the Molly Millar.


OLD PHOTO'S 1 249 w

Photo Copyright © James Robinson.

In 2010 the Railway Hotel buildings still stand and are in use as a ‘halfway house’.


OLD PHOTO'S 1 250 w

Photo Copyright © James Robinson.

However, this photo shows the Molly Millar as a separate building, so the question is, at sometime, was the Molly Millar in the Railway Hotel before moving to new premises alongside?

 The historical photo raises a query too. It shows some level crossing gates which I’m told were to protect the railway siding that led to the goods and coal depot where freight was unloaded. That is now the station car parking area. Comparing that photo with the modern one, the gates are gone and Molly Millar stands right next to the Railway Hotel. It’s a puzzlement so stand by for corrections as and when they come in.


Trevor has contributed several items to the web site and they can be accessed from the links below…


Photo Album.                    Documents.                    Memoire.                    T.A.T. for 52A.



First Published: 1st March 2006.

Layout revised, content added and updated: 1st February 2011.

Latest Updates: 1st October 2018.





                      go_top     R arrow     Continued








counter customizable free hit