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.