Blue Plaques

Historic Blue Plaques

Walter Money (1836-1926) Location: Market Street, at the corner with Bartholomew Street.

Walter Money Blue Plaque

Newbury historian Walter Money was born at Donnington Dene, Oxford Road, Donnington in August 1836.  He was the son of John and Maria Money, and his brother James H. Money went on to become an important local architect.

As a young man, Walter Money trained as an architect.  In 1865 he married Charlotte Ann Butler, and the couple lived for many years at Herborough House in Bartholomew Street.  He was there in 18801, still there in 18962, but gone by 19003

It was while living at Herborough House that he published some of his best-known books, including his monumental History of the ancient Town and Borough of Newbury in the county of Berks, or, more simply, History of Newbury (Parker & Co, Oxford 1887); and The First and Second Battles of Newbury and the Siege of Donnington Castle (W. J. Blacket 1881).

Herborough House was at 122-123 Bartholomew Street, in its later years used by Nias, and then demolished as part of the development of the Kennet Centre.

Walter Money joined the Newbury District Field Club in 1875, and became one of its leading members (Hon. Secretary from 1879 to 1893).  He was a churchwarden of St. Nicolas Church.  In 1878 he was elected a member of Newbury Town Council and he was a member of Berkshire County Council from 1889 to 1897.  He became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA), and was a member of the Berkshire Archaeological Society, and local secretary for the National Trust.

Apart from the books mentioned above, a condensed Popular History of Newbury followed in 1905, along with several more books, a number of booklets, and a long series of articles for newspapers and periodicals, including many for the Newbury Weekly News.

In retirement, he went to live at Shaw Dene.  His wife Charlotte died in 1922.  He died on October 18, 1926, aged 90, at a nursing home in St. John’s Road.  He was buried in the Newtown Road cemetery.  In his memory, Newbury Museum (as it was then) was extended with a new building added to the east side of the Cloth Hall.

1. Walter Money letter of Dec 27, 1880 written from Herborough House.  In private collection.
2. Cosburn’s Directory of Newbury 1896 p. 314.
3. Cosburn’s Directory of Newbury 1900 p. 314.

Francis Baily Location: 62 Northbrook Street

Francis Bailey Blue Plaque

Francis Baily (1774-1844) was an eminent astronomer, the son of Richard and Sarah Baily. The Bailys are a Thatcham family, and their family vault lies at St Mary’s Church, Thatcham.  However, Richard Baily had moved to Newbury to engage in business as a banker, coal merchant, and barge master, and served as Mayor of Newbury 1773-74.  Francis was born at his house at 62 Northbrook Street (since rebuilt).

After a tour in the unsettled parts of North America, Baily entered the London Stock Exchange in 1799.  He earned a high reputation as a writer on life contingencies and amassed a fortune which enabled him to retire from business in 1825, to devote himself wholly to astronomy.  He took a leading part in the foundation of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820 and was elected its President four times (1825–27, 1833–35, 1837–39 and 1843–45).  His fame as an astronomer rests on his discovery of “Baily’s beads” in 1836.  During an eclipse of the sun by the moon, the irregular shape of the moon’s limb allows beads of sunlight to shine through in some places around the moon’s profile, but not in others.  He observed the phenomenon again at Pavia during the solar eclipse of 1842, starting the modern series of eclipse expeditions.

In other work, Baily superintended the compilation of the British Association's Catalogue of 8377 stars (published 1845), and revised the catalogues of Tobias Mayer, Ptolemy, Ulugh Beg, Tycho Brahe, Edmund Halley and Hevelius.   He completed Henry Foster's (1797-1831) pendulum experiments, deducing from them an ellipticity for the earth of 1/289.48.  This value was corrected for the length of the seconds pendulum by introducing a neglected element of reduction, and was used in 1843 in the reconstruction of the standards of length.  His laborious operations for determining the mean density of the earth, carried out by Henry Cavendish's method (1838–1842), yielded the authoritative value of 5.66.  He published at his own expense a detailed account of the work of the first Astronomer Royal, Sir John Flamsteed.

Baily lived at 37 Tavistock Place, London.  He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1832.  The lunar crater Baily was named in his honour, as were the rigid and thermally insensitive alloy (Baily’s metal) used to cast the 1855 standard yard, and the Francis Baily Primary School in Thatcham.

John Winchcombe II Location: 24 Northbrook Street

John Winchcombe Blue Plaque

John Winchcombe (c.1489-1557) - ‘Jack of Newbury’

“Jack of Newbury” or John Winchcombe II (c.1489-1557) was a leading cloth-producer in the reign of Henry VIII, when woollen cloth was the country’s most important export.  For a time, he was the leading figure in England’s leading industry. 

The many different cloths produced at the time were dominated by broadcloths and kersies, and current evidence shows Winchcombe producing on an industrial scale: over 6,000 kersey cloths each year in the 1540s.  Each cloth was about a yard (0.9m.) wide, and 17-18 yards long.  The scale of his production is also indicated by details of the dyeing process.  Woad was his most important dye, normally delivered by the cartload. One order survives for 541 cwt, or over 27 tons of woad. 

Many people were involved in the production processes, which included spinning and weaving.  Fulling took place in local mills and the finished kersies were exported via London to Antwerp, where they were recognised in the 1530s and 1540s as the best of their kind.  Although Winchcombe has sometimes been credited with founding England’s first factory, no documentary evidence of a weaving workshop has yet been traced.  However, the quantity of cloths produced suggests a workshop of perhaps 30-50 looms. 

In the language of the time, he was a “clothier,” organising the production of cloth which was then sold in his name.  In the 1530s and 1540s he led a national campaign to persuade Henry VIII to change the law on the making of woollen cloth, heading a group of clothiers from six counties – a campaign which was ultimately successful. 

The Newbury area had produced cloth since prehistoric times; and would continue to produce cloth long after Winchcombe’s death.  But it was only in his lifetime that Newbury reached national importance in this field.  This prominence was real but short-lived.

In Henry VIII’s reign, John Winchcombe combined a role as a cloth-producer with that of one of the county gentry for Berkshire.  He was among those present for the reception of Henry VIII’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves, and his personal contacts included Sir Thomas Gresham and the Protector Somerset.  He spent over £4,000 on the purchase of property including the manors of Thatcham and Bucklebury, and held a portfolio of other property mainly in and around Newbury.  He was a Member of Parliament and a Justice of the Peace.

As one of the county gentry, John Winchcombe led Newbury men to war to fight for Henry VIII, including to the siege of Boulogne in 1544.  He was granted a coat of arms, and had his portrait painted in 1550.

His home in Northbrook Street filled the area between Jack Street and Marsh Lane (now mostly occupied by Marks & Spencer, and previously by the Jack Hotel), and here he welcomed the future Protector Somerset.    It consisted of timber-framed buildings ranged around courtyards.  A fragment of this extensive home survives on the corner of Marsh Lane, complete with carvings and mouldings.  Other carvings now at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire.  It is on this surviving part of his house that the blue plaque has been placed.

A fictionalised story of his life, written by a contemporary of Shakespeare, with published in the 1590s.  This was “The Pleasant Historie of John Winchcombe, in his younger years called Jack of Newbury…”  by Thomas Deloney.  Thomas Fuller described Winchcombe in the 17th century as “…the most considerable Clothier (without fancy or fiction) England ever beheld.”  Winchcombe has been frequently confused with his father, who died in 1520 and was also a clothier. 

David Peacock 2017

Vodafone Location: Thames Court, 20-22 The Broadway

Vodafone Thames Court Blue Plaque

Press report dated 3rd January 1985 courtesy of the Newbury Weekly News

Vodafone Thames Court Blue Plaque

George and Pelican Location: 2 London Road

George and Pelican Blue Plaque

The George & Pelican was Newbury’s most famous coaching inn. It was created around 1730 by the amalgamation of The George and The Pelican, a few years before the Great Bath Road (the modern A4) was fully ‘turnpiked’ in the 1740s.  The creation of turnpike trusts was an early form of privatization in which companies took over the maintenance of major roads in return for the right to charge users a toll to use them. It was a great success and resulted in a massive improvement in the standard of roads, which enabled a new age of travel – the coaching era. The inn was in Speenhamland, which was not then within the Parish or Borough of Newbury, although clearly a part of the overall town.

It was not the grandest inn or hotel in Newbury. It catered for a wider section of the community than the very rich and, as a result, it was a more viable business, whilst seeing its fair share of custom from the highest echelons of society.  During its heyday it was visited by many notable travellers, including King George III and Queen Charlotte, Charles Dickens, Samuel Coleridge, William Cobbett and the actor James Quinn - who is credited with the witty epigram:

The famous inn at Speenhamland
That stands below the hill
May well be called the Pelican
From its enormous bill.

In 1795 local MP, Charles Dundas, chaired a meeting of Berkshire JPs at the George & Pelican that decided to address the pressing issue of agricultural poverty through a widely adopted system of relief known as the Speenhamland System (taking its name from the inn’s location).

During the golden age of the coaching era the George & Pelican was owned and run by George & Eleanor Botham and was a large business. They owned over 200 horses which would could be rented by travellers or coaching companies. The inn had stabling for 300 horses, a bowling green and pleasure gardens on the north side of Speenhamland Backway (now part of Pelican Lane) to the rear of the inn. When a Parliamentary select committee was inquiring into the optimum road-making technique George Botham was called to London to give evidence. He spoke in favour of John McAdam’s process, which was later developed into tarmac.

The opening of the Great Western Railway in 1841 heralded the end of the coaching era in this part of the country, the trade shrank immensely, and Eleanor Botham (George had died a few years earlier) went bankrupt.  The inn struggled on for a while, eventually closing in 1869 when the final proprietor, Henry Thomson, moved to the Three Tuns (now the Elephant in the Market). The stables then became a livery business that continued trading well into the 20th century.

Phil Wood (2019)

James H. Money (1834 - 1918) Location: Town Hall, Market Place

James H. Money Blue Plaque

James Henry Money was born on October 14, 1834, at the Dene, Oxford Road, Donnington (also known as Donnington Dene), near the Castle pub.  He was the son of John and Maria Money; he had two older sisters, and was the second of three brothers.  His younger brother was Newbury historian Walter Money. 

His father ran a brickworks at Donnington before moving on to create a surveyor’s and then an architect’s business.  His mother’s father was also a surveyor.

On leaving school James H. Money trained as an architect, articled to Cooper & Kent of Gray’s Inn, London.  At this time his designs were selected in competitions for cemetery buildings at Watford, Ipswich and Keighley in Yorkshire.

On returning to Newbury, he joined his father’s practice in the 1850s, and had effectively taken over by the end of the 1860s.  John Money died in January 1874, but had not been involved in the business for several years before then.

James H. Money had a long and productive career: he was active as an architect for over 50 years, from the 1850s until shortly before the First World War.  In 1862 he married Martha Joan Vincent, daughter of Newbury solicitor Frederick Vincent.

In 1864 his office was at 34 Northbrook Street (also home to the printers who established the Newbury Weekly News), and his home was in Enborne Road.  Later in the 1860s he acquired buildings in the Broadway, including York House, which became his long-established office.  His home moved to The Shrubbery, Oxford Road (now Wessex House, opposite Waitrose).   

His designs were numerous, in many different styles.  They included cottages, pubs, breweries, shops, schools, chapels, church restorations, and extensions to country houses, almost all in the Newbury area, with more around Andover and a school in Devon.

His most prestigious projects were the town halls in Hungerford and Newbury, the Falkland Memorial, and Oddfellow’s Hall in Newbury.  Hungerford Town Hall was built 1870-71; Newbury 1876-81, with an extension in 1909-10; the Falkland Memorial at Wash Common, commemorating the first battle of Newbury in 1843, was unveiled in 1878; and Oddfellows Hall in Craven Road, Newbury was built in 1886.

His wife Martha died in 1893 at The Shrubbery.  It was after this that he moved his home to York House in the Broadway (now Thames Court), where his office had been for many years.  He died on June 21, 1918 at his home in Newbury.  The funeral took place at Shaw Church, and there is a memorial cross to him and his wife in the churchyard.  He had at least 10 children (one son and nine daughters surviving in 1918).

David Peacock, July 2017

Further information about James H. Money

Newbury Brewing Industry Location: St Nicolas House, West Mills

Newbury Brewing Industry Blue Plaque

Brewing on a commercial scale began to establish itself as a major industry in the late middle ages, following the introduction of hops into the brewing process. Hops add bitterness to the brew, but also act as a preservative, meaning that there was more time to transport the beer to retail premises where it had a longer shelf life. However, it would be confined to larger towns and cities until an effective means of distribution was available to enable the brewer to reach a larger market. The first evidence of commercial brewing in Newbury was in 1643, when 34 publicans, and three brewers were amerced (fined) at the manorial court for taking excess profit in beer.

In 1723 the River Kennet was made navigable to Reading, meaning that the country’s largest market for beer, London, was within reach of Newbury. The earliest records of the ‘Navigation’ show that almost immediately at least one Newbury brewer, John Townsend, was shipping beer in bulk to the capital where Newbury beer was soon a popular tipple.

The Beer House Act of 1830 was an attempt by Parliament to break the monopoly of the brewers. The idea was that their grip on the trade, largely gained though the local monopolisation of pub licenses, would be broken by allowing anyone with suitable premises to sell beer or cider, preferably brewed on the premises. However, the brewers soon became the suppliers of the new premises as well as the old and the act failed in its intent.  Nevertheless, it was partially successful in increasing competition since numerous new breweries were opened to exploit the increased market. Some of these had short lives but, by the time the Act was repealed in 1869, there were nine commercial breweries in Newbury.

From the 1890s the numbers were diminished through mergers and takeovers from which the South Berkshire Brewery Company in West Mills emerged as the major player. By 1920 there were only four breweries left; in that year the South Berks was purchased by H & G Simonds of Reading, which also bought the Newbury Brewery Company of Northbrook Street in 1930 and Adnams’ Eagle Brewery of Speenhamland in 1936. The takeover of Adnams’ marked the end of brewing in Newbury since the fourth of the last brewers, Finn’s Phoenix Brewery of Bartholomew Street had been acquired by Ushers Brewery from Trowbridge in 1926.

The blue plaque marking the importance of the brewing trade to the town has been placed on St Nicolas House in West Mills. This splendid Grade II* listed building was built in the 1730s as a home for Samuel Slocock, proprietor of the West Mills Brewery.

Phil Wood (2019)

Elsie Lilly Kimber Location: Hillier and Wilson Estate Agents, Bartholomew Street

Newbury Brewing Industry Blue Plaque

This plaque commemorates Elsie Kimber (1889-1954), who in 1932 was elected as the first female Mayor of Newbury since the Borough was created in 1596.  The plaque is located at 64 Bartholomew Street, now Hillier & Wilson Estate Agents, but formerly Kimber’s Grocery and Provision Merchants, informally called “Kimber’s Corner”, which she ran from 1939 until her retirement in 1953.

Elsie Kimber was a pioneer in our local government.  The road had been steep.  Although women had been permitted to be elected as local Councillors and to serve as Mayor and Aldermen in 1907, full national gender equality for voting purposes was only granted in 1928.  Elsie was elected the first female Newbury Town Councillor in 1922 and was appointed its first female Alderman in 1943.  The next female Mayor, Ethel Elliott, was not elected until 1953, and it was not until 1993 that female Mayors were addressed as “Madam Mayor”.  Until then, the term “Mr Mayor” was so ingrained that it was used even for women. 

Elsie Kimber was born at 64 Bartholomew Street and was one of the first intake to the Newbury County Girls’ School when it opened in 1904.  She joined her father, Ernest Kimber, in his grocery business and ran it after his death until she retired.  She was also the first woman delegate to the All England Grocers' Conference.  During the Second World War she served as an ARP Warden.  Her interests as a Councillor included housing, slum clearance, public health and education.  She taught swimming to children, and her reputation was of “one who had an infinite capacity for taking pains”.

DNS Railway Location: Train Station, Station Road

Newbury Brewing Industry Blue Plaque

This plaque commemorates the central role that was performed by the former Didcot, Newbury, and Southampton Railway in conveying service personnel and military materials from the Midlands and the North of England to the Port of Southampton in preparation for the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe on 6th June 1944. The plaque is located outside Newbury Railway Station, by kind permission of Network Rail and Great Western Railway. 

The DNS Railway constituted the heavy transport link for this vital supply.  At its peak, it carried 120 train movements a day.  To accommodate the traffic, the line between Didcot and two miles south of Newbury was doubled.  Despite its name, it terminated at Winchester, and depended for the final part of its route on other railway lines.  Unfortunately, it never proved profitable from its opening in 1882/1885 or after 1945, and was eventually closed in 1964.

Plenty's Eagle Iron Works Location: Cheap Street, Newbury

Plenty's Eagle Iron Works Blue Plaque

Plenty’s was founded in Southampton in 1790 by William Plenty (1759-1832), a millwright and agricultural engineer, who shortly afterwards moved the business to Cheap Street in Newbury.  In 1800 he patented an iron plough, which was recognised as being more manoeuvrable and economical in use.  In 1817 he launched a new design of lifeboat, which was exceptionally stable and seaworthy, and was adopted by the body now known as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.  11 were stationed round the British coast and saved many lives at sea.

Entrance to Plenty's Eagle Iron Works, Cheap Street (Mrs Walford, wife of a Plenty’s Director).

William was succeeded in management of the business by his sons James Shergold Plenty (1811-51) and Edward Pellew Plenty I (1816-98) (named after Admiral Sir Edward Pellew).  In 1865 they diversified by patenting a marine steam engine, and in 1880 the company was added to the Admiralty list for supply of steam engines, used particularly in Royal Navy picket boats and in submarines from 1885-87.  The company supplied marine engines world-wide and in 1890 was incorporated as Plenty & Son Ltd.  The premises became known as the Plenty Eagle Iron Works.  Subsidiaries were founded in Glasgow, Southampton, and overseas.

Edward Pellew Plenty I was elected Mayor of Newbury in 1865-66.  He partially retired in 1868 to “Budd’s Farm” in Burghclere, which he had inherited through his wife Caroline Simmonds, the niece of William Budd, Solicitor and Mayor in 1789-90.  He experimented in agricultural improvements and retired fully in 1884.  His son Edward Pellew Plenty II had succeeded him, but in 1899 absconded with £4600 of the company’s assets.  The other Directors Harry Wethered and the second Earl Russell then appointed Edward Plenty II’s son Edward Pellew Plenty III (1868-1949) (known as Jack Plenty) to head the firm.  Jack Plenty had a son Edward Pellew Plenty IV (1897-1921), who achieved a brilliant career in the Royal Flying Corps, being promoted Lieutenant in 1915 and Major in 1918, but very sadly died in the influenza epidemic of 1921.  The family’s connection with the firm therefore ended in 1949.

Edward Pellew Plenty I (Newbury Town Council).

Plenty’s diversified into a wide range of products, including iron bridges, and in 1920’s adopted diesel technology, with engines for not only for ships, winches, and compressors, but also power stations.  In 1935 it commenced production of a wide range of rotary pumps.  Filters were added in 1951 and mixers in 1955 as it focused on fluid processing products.  In recent decades (1970s onwards), some of Plenty's work was in connection with North Sea oil.

In 1965 the company moved from Cheap Street to its present premises in Hambridge Road.  In 1969 it was acquired by Booker McConnell and in 2001 by SPX Flow Technology, an international company with $2 billion in annual revenue and operations in 30 countries.  SPX Flow Technology’s pumps, mixers, and filtration products for the oil and gas, water, food, and chemical industries bear the Plenty brand. 

Anthony Pick
10th October 2019

Newbury Advertiser 22-29 September 1987.
Newbury Weekly News 26 February 2015 (for E.P. Plenty IV).
Berkshire Record Office (Ellie Thorne).