History in Structure

Nos 49-53 London Street

A Grade II Listed Building in Katesgrove, Reading

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Latitude: 51.4525 / 51°27'8"N

Longitude: -0.968 / 0°58'4"W

OS Eastings: 471806

OS Northings: 173113

OS Grid: SU718731

Mapcode National: GBR QMG.NS

Mapcode Global: VHDWT.5RMF

Plus Code: 9C3XF22J+XR

Entry Name: Nos 49-53 London Street

Listing Date: 14 December 1978

Last Amended: 21 September 2016

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1156165

English Heritage Legacy ID: 39030

ID on this website: 101156165

Location: Reading, Berkshire, RG1

County: Reading

Electoral Ward/Division: Katesgrove

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Reading

Traditional County: Berkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Berkshire

Church of England Parish: Reading St Giles

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

Tagged with: Building

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A timber framed building of the C16 and possibly earlier on the east side of London Street, re-fronted and remodelled into a pair of dwellings probably in the C18 or C19, with shop fronts of the late C19 and C20. Remodelled and extended in the late C20 and early C21.


A timber framed building of the C16 and possibly earlier on the east side of London Street, re-fronted and remodelled into a pair of dwellings probably in the C18 or C19, with shop fronts of the late C19 and C20. Remodelled and extended in the late C20 and early C21. The late-C20, double-pile steel, breeze block, brick and timber extension to the rear, and its ground floor link to the rear wing, are excluded from the listing.

Rendered timber frame and red brick refronting to the London Street elevation, with late-C20 structural steel and breeze block in places. The roofs have clay tile coverings, the chimneys are of brick.

The earliest building may have been an open hall with a rear-projecting cross wing at the north end, but was remodelled to form a pair of dwellings with a central open passageway. As it stands, the building has two separate shop fronts, with a shared first floor accessed from the now enclosed passageway and internally by a stair within the rear wing.

A two storey building, with a basement to no. 49 and an attic storey to the rear wing, comprising four bays to the timber frame. The west-facing façade comprises two shop fronts, between which is a central passageway to the ground floor which leads to the rear and is enclosed by a C21 external door. The shop front to no. 53 is a late-C20 reconstruction, while that to no. 49 is late-C19 with pilasters supporting carved brackets to the fascia; the glazing to the shop fronts and doors are modern. To the north (left) of the shop front to no. 49, and above at the first floor, are sash windows with margin lights: the windows to no. 49 have blind boxes. Above, a parapet obscures the gable roof to the linear range; there is a hipped roof to the rear wing. C19 chimneys rise from the front pitch of no. 49, the rear pitch of no. 53 and the ridge of the rear wing; all show evidence of brick renewal, probably dating to the late C20.

The rear elevation has extensions, most of which retain their historic character and scale, but were rebuilt in the late C20. The rear wing was extended to the east of the chimney at the same time; the extension has a gable roof. The fenestration comprises late-C20 sashes.

The north elevation has an exposed timber frame comprising a sole plate on a plinth and the front corner post rising to the roof adjoining the C18/C19 front. There is a curved front brace to the midrail and two to the tie beam. Exposed above are close studding to the gable end and the rafters and collar of the ‘A’-frame roof. These elements are pegged and jointed and appear in situ. The current roof line is set slightly above, suggesting that the roof structure to no. 49 has been raised a little and probably strengthened. To the left of the front range, and projecting slightly forward, is some exposed framing to the rear wing. The configuration of the frame suggests some reproduction, but a possible window surround may be exposed. Further east, where the rear wing has been rebuilt, the elevation comprises painted breeze block, linked in turn to the rendered gable ends of the late-C20 extension. The south elevation is attached to no. 55 London Street.

In general there has been much remodelling to the original plan-form particularly on the ground floor, renewal of plasterwork and structure internally, almost certainly as a result of remedial works considered necessary as part of the late-C20 alterations. Nevertheless, there are significant elements of timber-frame surviving in situ; some of the structure has undoubtedly been restored but in the original configuration.

The basement to no. 49 appears to have been extended beneath the pavement in the late C20. There was evidently a basement in the post-medieval period, as the upper part of the basement stairs has historic brickwork and timber to the treads and risers. The lower stairs are entirely new and the cellar brickwork is renewed. The plinth, sole plate and corner post of the rear wing is exposed here.

The ground floor of the linear range forms offices and a salon respectively in 2016, remodelled for these purposes. In no. 53 the floor frame comprising transverse bridging beams and joists is exposed. The bridging beams have empty mortices and some joists have scarf joints; the floor frame appears to have been taken down and re-erected in the late C20. The cross frame of the south gable end at the ground and first floor is in situ. At the ground floor, it is partly obscured by modern plaster, but comprises front and rear corner posts and midrails of large scantling and close studding. In no. 49 the floor frame is not exposed, and may have been replaced with structural steels.

Near to the centre of the rear wall of no. 49 is a rebuilt brick fireplace with a bressumer and an exposed chimney stack, repointed and with some renewed brick. At the back is the base of an opening, leading to a vaulted passageway to the rear of the stack. It has been suggested that this may be a former priest’s hole, also accessible through two half-arched openings found to the rear of this stack, one leading from the stairs in the rear wing, and the other from the rebuilt C18 rear extension (a kitchen in 2016 with reconfigured floor levels).

To the left of the fireplace is some raised and fielded panelling of C17 date, with the cupboard noted in the List entry of 1978 above, both beneath the remaining part of the midrail to the rear wall frame. There is more panelling at the end wall of the left-hand room where the front and rear corner posts and midrail of the timber frame are also exposed. The rear wing is accessed from an opening in the north-east corner and accommodates the dog-leg stairs to the first floor of the linear range and the upper floors of the rear wing. The stairs are to the left of the main chimney, which heated both the main range and rear wing from fireplaces (renewed) at each floor. On the second flight is a most unusual, simply-shaped newel post formed from a solid plank. Vestigial timber framing is found in the rear wing, including sections of partition wall, corner posts and close studding. At the attic floor the roof structure is exposed, comprising tie beams, side purlins, principal rafters supported by diagonal straight braces and close studding to the apex of the gable end. In the rear wing, rooms to the east of the chimney have chamfered, transverse bridging beams but these do not appear to be in situ; all other timber framing was removed when the rear wing was extended in the late C20. The extension contains no historic fabric.

The first floor of the main range has modern partitions, but the rear wall plate with scarf joints, close studding to some of the rear wall, cranked tie beams, some with arched braces, and corner posts remain. The feet of the principal rafters to no. 49’s ‘A’-frame roof are exposed at the rear; smoke blackened timbers are said to remain here, but were not observed. The fireplace in what would have been the second bay (from the north) has much renewed brickwork and a chamfered bressumer. At the south gable end, the wall plate, close studding, midrails, intermediate and corner posts of the cross frame are exposed and in situ. There is said to be C17 panelling in the northernmost room of the floor, but this was not observed.


London Street has medieval origins, and was one of the principal roads leading from Reading’s historic core during this period. It is marked on John Speed’s 1611 map of Reading which shows a continuous frontage of buildings on the east and west sides of the street, with yards, fields and orchards to the rear. The List entry of 1978 mentions that the earliest deeds are of the mid-C15, but the Buildings of England for Berkshire (2010, p473) states that the building is recorded from at least 1518; the exposed timber frame appears to be of the C16 and later. The earliest building was probably a linear range fronting London Street, with a cross wing projecting to the rear at its north end. Smoke blackening of the roof structure to no. 49, noted in the Heritage Statement of April 2015 but not observed by Historic England in July 2016, may suggest that the earliest structure had an open hall.

The building shows clear evidence of change over time in its fabric. The presence of C17 raised and fielded panelling in the ground floor room of no. 49 suggests relatively prosperous owners continued to live in the building into the post-medieval period. The building was refronted in the C18 or C19, when the front wall frame was replaced with brick, and rendered. The building was subdivided into two dwellings, with a number of extensions added to the rear. Central between the dwellings was a passageway leading to the cottages (now demolished) in Steeple Court to the rear, recorded on the first edition OS map of 1879. An historic photograph of the rear elevation of nos. 49-53, probably dating to the late-C19, shows exposed brick to the ground floor with a rendered timber frame above, a shallow hipped roof extension to the south and a larger gabled extension spanning the passageway’s rear access.

Shop fronts were added to both nos. 49 and 53 in the late-C19; that to no. 53 was reconstructed in the late-C20. Accommodation above comprises rooms to the front accessed by a corridor created by modern partitions at the rear of the linear range, and rooms in the rear extensions. Significant alterations were consented in the 1980s when the crosswing was extended and linked to a new double-pile building to the rear, on the site of the demolished cottages in Steeple Court. A photograph of this development indicates that the timber frame of no. 53 was heavily refurbished at the time necessitating the re-erection of the rear wall frame and floor frame and replacement of the roof structure here. The same photograph indicates that the timber frame to no. 49 and the cross wing was generally intact, but a first floor extension over the access on the north side of the building evident in the photograph was subsequently removed, presumably as part of the works. Structural steels were added throughout the building and salvaged timbers have been reused in some places where replacement was necessary.

At the time of inspection, the upper floors of the building were being converted into single dwelling units, and two of those at the front of the building could not be inspected. The northernmost room is said to contain C17 panelling.

Reasons for Listing

Nos. 49-53 London Street, Reading, a C16 timber framed building altered in the C18, C19, C20 and C21, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a significant proportion of the pre-1700 fabric remains, with important elements such as the timber frame and roof structure to the rear wing, and rear and cross frames with arched bracing and roof structure to no. 49, surviving well;
* Interior: the plan-form is legible despite later reconfiguration and notable survivals including the possible priest’s hole, newel post and C17 panelling contribute to the building's distinction;
* Historic interest: attested by changes to the building over time which demonstrate the evolution from a dwelling of some status with origins in the late medieval and early post-medieval period, to polite dwellings of the C17 and C18, and part commercial property in the C19.

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