About the garden

Built in 1840, the ‘Gothic Villa’ originally stood at the junction of Queen’s Road and King’s Road (now a traffic island) but in 1878 was moved, stone-by-stone, to 17 Craven Road, by its owner, John Okey Taylor because the noise from Huntley & Palmers huge factory disturbed his peace! Taylor was an institution; a retired slate merchant, Mayor of Reading, Governor of Reading School and the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Chairman of the Gas Company and the Board of Guardians that administered the Poor Law. He re-christened the house ‘Cravenhurst’ and set about creating a garden that reflected his status as the ‘Grand Old Boy of Reading’ and won prizes at the 1893 Reading Horticultural Society annual show. The garden included a tennis court, manicured lawns, a magnificent greenhouse, herbaceous borders, chicken coops, fruit trees and vegetable beds, and was used for fund-raising events for his local churches, St Giles and St Luke’s.

After Taylor’s death in 1918, the house was bought by Reading School, renamed the ‘Headmaster’s Lodge’ and was the home to five schoolmasters until 1997 when it was bought by the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH). The intervening years have not been kind to the garden; the garden structures have collapsed and the beds and paths are smothered under bramble, laurel and ivy.

This photo shows Edith Taylor in 1918 by the steps of the patio in the garden. Edith was the daughter of John Okey Taylor.

The design will create a multi-purpose space with formal areas with lawns and herbaceous borders for social and fund-raising events, as well as wilder areas and ‘rooms’ where people can wander, garden, do tai chi or yoga, chat and relax with colleagues or sit quietly, feasting all the senses. Using photos dating back to the 1920s elements of the original garden will be included as well as echoes of traditional medicinal physic gardens. A water feature, edible forest, scented winter garden, wildflower meadow and memorial garden are all planned (funding permitting) and veg beds and a herb garden will provide the Centre’s users with fresh ingredients and herbal teas. Interpretation panels around the garden will demonstrate how visitors can reduce their carbon footprint, especially by adopting a more healthy planet-friendly diet.

More about the design of the new garden


The original concept design, outlined in March 2022, has been developed following consultation with different stakeholders across the charity and the Trust. The revised design concept has been worked into more detailed plans for hard landscaping and planting which has enabled us to develop a realistic schedule of works and costings. The design aims to:

  • Echo the original gardens captured in historic photos dating back to the 1920s
  • Create outdoor rooms for people to meet or reflect
  • Create multi-purpose spaces for activities, eg knitting, art, and exercise, eg yoga, tai chi, pilates, outdoor gym, gardening
  • Provide opportunities for staff to grow their own fruit and veg and learn new skills, eg propagation, and pruning.
  • Encourage and support staff to grow their own fruit and veg at home
  • Reflect the diversity of cultures among the staff in both planting and hard landscaping, eg tropical summer veg, multi-faith memorial garden, to encourage wide use of the garden by staff
  • Local wild nature charity, Nature-Nurture, will run family holiday sessions for staff, including fun low carbon lifestyle activities

Get in touch

Royal Berks Charity, Royal Berkshire Hospital, London Road, Reading RG1 5AN

© 2021 Royal Berks Charity.
The working name of the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust Charity.
Registered charity number 1052720

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