Spoons pubs in Berkshire have had interesting pasts
Have you ever been drinking or eating in a Wetherspoons and wondered what the place used to be?
Or have you ever wondered why your local Spoons has such a unique name?
The Wetherpoons pubs in Berkshire were once private homes, a brewery, a chemist and a Co-operative store.
Some of the pubs and their names date back hundreds of years.
One of the pubs even had a hiding place for priests fleeing persecution during the persecution.
And even the not so ancient pubs have town histories in them, celebrating the famous citizens and big industry in Berkshire.
The Old Manor
Where: Grenville Place, Bracknell
Dating back to Tudor times, The Old Manor is one of the oldest-surviving buildings in Bracknell.
It served as a home until the 1930s.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the building is its secret tunnels.
Called the ‘priest’s holes’, the tunnels and hiding hatches were once used as a refuge by Catholic priests fleeing persecution.
Refugees must have spent an anxious time hidden away in the priest’s hole while the house was ransacked by troops hunting for them.
According to reports it was also used later by local highwaymen keen to escape from the authorities.
These highwaymen would prey on travellers going through Hounslow Heath and Windsor Forest before returning to the Old Manor.
They also found the Old Manor’s secret tunnels very useful for making a swift getaway.
One passageway, now bricked up, is said to have connected the Old Manor House with the notorious Hinds Head Inn, which once stood just twenty feet away on the opposite side of High Street.
Other tunnels, now inaccessible, led to various parts of the town and would have allowed many a highwayman to make good his escape.
The priest hole is situated above the main fireplace which has now been uncovered for drinkers.
At the beginning of the 20th century the Old Manor House was owned by the veterinary surgeon to Ascot Racecourse.
The house remained a private residence until the 1930s.
Since then it has had a variety of uses including that of a club and a residential hotel, before being bought up by JD Wetherspoon.
Where: 8-10 High Street, Maidenhead
The Bear in Maidenhead takes its name from a much older inn that was first recorded as far back as 1489.
The inn in those days was slammed for having a landlord who charged ‘an unlawful price for provision’.
In the early 19th century, it was one of the town’s main coaching inns, before it was converted into a private house in 1845.
It became a Wetherspoon pub in 2010.
Inside, the pub has pictures and text about the history of the town, including doomed King Charles I’s visit to see his children before he was executed, and the history of Maidenhead Bridge and the Great Western Railway, as the railway line from Maidenhead to Paddington was completed in 1838, with the help of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The Hatchet Inn
Where: 12 Market Place, Newbury
The Hatchet Inn is one of the most historic Wetherspoons pubs in Berkshire.
It is first mentioned as a coaching stop in the manuscripts of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in May 1725, referred to as the Hatchet’ in Market Place, Newbury.
In 1761, it was recorded as the Hatchet Inn.
Market Place was the centre of Newbury’s coaching trade in the 18th century, with most buildings on the east side being coaching inns or hotels.
In the 1930s, the property was known as the Hatchet Hotel, and subsequently the Hatchet Restaurant, Hatchet Steakhouse, Hatchet public house and even the Berkshire Tavern, before being bought up by JD Wetherspoon.
The Hope Tap
Where: 99-105 Friar Street, Reading, Berkshire
The Hope Tap is certainly a fantastic name for a pub, but what is the history behind it?
The new buildings which the pub now occupies used to be the home of the Hope Brewery which had its own pub, called The Hope Tap.
According to trade directories, 103–104 Friar Street were occupied by the brewery, but by 1860 the brewery had gone.
The Hope Tap buildings were taken over by the Reading Co-operative Society, which opened a shoe shop, a butcher’s, a clothing tailor and a sweet shop.
The Co-op store in Reading town centre existed on the site from 1900 to 1905.
Eventually, it became the new Hope Tap pub.
The pub is stuffed with information about the history of Reading, particularly the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde, information about the Greyfriars and Greyfriars Church, the town’s brewing pedigree and the history of Sutton Seeds.
The Back of Beyond
Where: 104–108 Kings Road, Reading
This pub stands on the site of a ginger beer factory.
It was later used as a Salvation Army barracks, and takes its name from its location on the edge of town.
Inside, the pub is packed with history about the Huntley & Palmer biscuit factory, old pictures of King’s Road, Reading’s place on the main train line between London and the South West.
The Moon and Spoon
Where: 86-88 High Street, Slough
The Moon and Spoon stands where the old Black Boy Inn was.
Mention of that pub was first made in 1679.
It was demolished in 1910 and replaced by the Fulbrook Motor Works.
When the motor works left, the building became known as Fullbrook House, and was home to Slough’s first supermarket and then the Halifax Building Society.
It was later bought by JD Wetherspoon and turned into this pub.
But why does it have ‘moon’ in its name?
Well, esteemed author George Orwell described his ideal pub in a newspaper article calling it the ‘Moon Under Water’.
That is is why ‘moon’ is used in the name of several Wetherspoon pubs.
Inside, you will find history about famous Slough resident and astrologer Sir William Herschel, and the story of how fighter planes during the Battle of Britain were built and tested in Langley.
The King & Castle
Where: 16-17 Thames Street, Windsor
The King & Castle occupies what used to be a chemists, until the building was converted into a pub in 1967.
From 1901 until 1967, the building was a Boots chemist, after the chain had bought it from another chemist chain called Days.
There are symbols relating to chemists and chemistry above the first floor windows.
Jesse Boot, the founder of the Boots chain, donated the walk to the side of the pub, which is known as Boot Passage.
The passageway is officially called the King Edward Gateway, as it has a bust of that king above the entrance.
From 1992, it was called the Olde King and Castle. The ‘King’ refers to the bust of Edward VII above the entrance to the adjacent passageway, where there is an engraving of Windsor Castle.
Although the name of the pub is not historical, its surroundings certainly are.
Windsor is the biggest and oldest occupied castle in the world.
Established by William Conqueror, the imposing castle was built to guard the western approaches to London.
It was then rebuilt by Henry II and extended in the 1360s by Edward III, one of England’s greatest warrior monarchs.
What the castle looks like now is mostly down to the renovations made George IV in the 1820s.
The pub is located in Thames Street, which sits below the castle’s imposing Curfew Tower, which was built in 1227 and restored in the 1860s.
The street was known for centuries as Bishop’s Street, until it was renamed Thames Street in the late 18th century.
Windsor began as the Saxon settlement of Windlesora, meaning ‘winch by the riverside’.
The name lives on in this Wetherspoon pub.
Old photos of Windsor High Street, the town hall, the parish church and the old train station can be found in the pub.
News From Berkshire Live